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Fables of Ancient Israel Now Being Dissected

 Fables of Ancient Israel Now Being Dissected

John Tiffany

JOHN TIFFANY is the assistant editor for THE BARNES REVIEW. Mr. Tiffany has a B.S. in biology from the University of Michigan (1969) and has been writing professionally for about 30 years.

Researchers are weighing the accuracy of the reigns of King Solomon and King David against archeological and scientific data just recently discovered. These scholars are coming up with some very interesting conclusions.

Many Christian religious scholars, such as noted author Thomas L. Thompson, think the history of Palestine and its peoples is very different from Old Testament narratives, regardless of political claims. A history of the region during the Iron I and Iron II periods leaves little room for any historicity in the accounts of the books of Samuel and Kings, critics say. The major media seldom mention the scholarly Christian critiques of the ancient legends for fear they they will come under attack from those who believe the facts undermine Israel’s very legitimacy.


Be ready for a major upsetting of the apple cart. Unknown to almost all laymen, a huge number of scholars have quietly come together agreeing on a historical fact that will overturn the entirety of “court history” when all the facts they have gathered become widely known.

They agree that the various tales of “ancient Israel” are largely fictional. Based upon the known facts of geography, history, archeology and even biblical scholarship, many of them argue there was no such entity as “ancient Israel”—that it never existed. Is it possible that ancient Israel is a hoax?

In spite of the sensational nature of these findings about “ancient Israel,” they are, so far, all but totally un known to the general public, including even history buffs. Colleges have been reluctant to teach the facts, and many Christian pastors stay away from these truths as if they would be cursed by God, Himself.

There was a time, not so long ago, when one simply did not question the Old Testament. If the Old Testament said something had happened at some time in the past, then it happened, and that was that, regardless of whether there was any other evidence for the event outside of it’s pages. No one even considered that it might be fictional. Today that is no longer the case.

William G. Dever, in his very interesting and extremely important book, Who Were the Early Israelites and Where Did They Come From?,1answers questions like “Did the House of David really exist?” and “Is King Solomon a fantasy?” Dever was formerly the head of the University of Arizona’s Near Eastern studies department.

Most modern scholars consider the Davidic dynasty and especially the Exodus story to be entirely fictitious.

There are many new things under the Sun, despite the biblical statement to the contrary, and in recent decades a great controversy has developed among the clerisy, although little has (until now) been heard about it by the masses: To what extent may the Old Testament, or parts of it, be considered an accurate historical document?

Perhaps the Old Testament can answer that question itself:

Thus saith the Lord: . . . Remember ye not the former things, neither consider the things of old. Behold, I will do a new thing.2

To be a true and honest scientist, one must be open to paradigm shifts, and, similarly, to be a true historian, a historiologist, is to be a Revisionist. To realize that what we once believed—although it seemed to make sense to us at the time—is not what we should continue to believe is the essential intellectual process by which wisdom grows. This is notoriously difficult for older, established scientists and historians who find themselves challenged to repudiate their whole life’s work, so that for a new viewpoint to become dominant sometimes requires us to wait for the older scientists and historians to die off, as with the Copernican Revolution.3

Just as Copernicus overthrew the old understanding that the Sun goes around the Earth, and changed the Sun to the center of the universe (and now it is not even that, but a minor star in an average galaxy, in a vast universe that has no center),4 so, with increasing knowledge of geography, was Jerusalem (appropriately enough, considering the gravamen of this article) dethroned from being the center of the world, as depicted in the Mappa Mundi in the Hereford (England) Cathedral, to a town in the backwaters of civilization.5 Jerusalem is no longer the center of anything, either in geography or in history, except, of course, in the minds of Jews.


For centuries, Western scholars generally assumed that Old Testament “events” such as the exile from the Palestine/Canaan of the Israelites and their return there to actually occurred. The ancient history of Palestine, it was taken for granted, could be written by merely paraphrasing or (where necessary to avoid conflict with known facts) correcting the stories of the Bible. However, this began to change as early as the beginning of the 16th century, with the publication of Amerigo Vespucci’s Mundus Novus letter. According to Vespucci, in his explorations of the New World, there were found diverse pumas, panthers and wildcats, so many wolves, red deer, monkeys and felines, marmosets of many kinds and many large snakes. There was, in fact, so much wildlife that he concluded “so many species could not have entered Noah’s ark.”

On the other hand, there is the case of James Ussher (1581-1656), Anglican archbishop of Armagh, primate of all Ireland and vice chancellor of Trinity College in Dublin, who was highly regarded in his day as a churchman and as a scholar. Of his many works, his treatise on chronology has proved the most durable but perhaps also the most ill fated. Based on an intricate correlation of Middle Eastern and Mediterranean histories and holy writ, it was incorporated into an authorized version of the Bible printed in 1701, and thus came to be regarded with almost as much unquestioning reverence as the Bible itself. Having established the first day of creation as Sunday, October 23, 4004 B.C., Ussher calculated the dates of other biblical events, concluding for example, that Adam and Eve were driven from the Garden of Eden on Monday, November 10, 4004 B.C., and that Noah’s ark made landfall on Mount Ararat on May 5, 1491 B.C., on a Wednesday.

In his work, Dr. John Lightfoot (1602-1675), vice chancellor of Cam bridge University, a contemporary of Ussher and one of the most eminent scholars of his time in the field of the Hebrew language, declared, as the result of his study of the Scriptures, that “heaven and earth, center and circumference, were created all to gether, in the same instant, and clouds full of water,” and that “this work took place, and man was created by the Trinity, on October 23, 4004 B.C., at 9:00 in the morning.” That would be Greenwich time; the time at the Garden of Eden would have been midnight. Lightfoot published his calculations in 1644, before Ussher’s were completed. It is interesting that the two scholars, acting independently, calculated the same date for the Creation, although Ussher did not give the time of day for the event. This may have something to do with the fact that both results compare, roughly, to the Jewish calendar’s date for the very beginning of time, which, rendered into our terms, would be approximately 3760 B.C.

As the sciences of geology and astrophysics and allied studies began to come into existence, with their intervals of millions and even billions of years (numbers that people in Bible times probably could not have conceived of), such chronologies as those of Ussher and Lightfoot impeded progress. Today, however, Lightfoot and Ussher have become laughingstocks as it is generally accepted that the Earth is at least 5 billion years old, and the known universe perhaps four times as old as the Earth.6 (A few scientists such as maverick astronomer Tom Van Flandern7 even maintain that the universe may be infinitely old.) Such phenomena as the Garden of Eden and Noah’s Flood cannot be taken literally from the Old Testament by modern scientists. Gradually the historicity of events farther removed from “Creation” increasingly came into question as well. Unfortunately, many people today, known as biblical inerrantists, refuse to consider the evidence, both internal to the Old Testament and external to it, showing that ancient tales of the “Jews” are not history.

Criticism of “the Old Testament as history” has quite a history itself. Benedict de Spinoza, a Jew who lived in Amsterdam, wrote a revolutionary book on the Bible, Tractatus Theologico-Politicus(Theological-Political Thesis, or TTP hereinafter), which appeared in 1670 in Latin, and within eight years it was translated into French. Although it was banned for its shocking criticism of the Old Testament, somehow everyone who was anyone had a copy. TTP forced a serious debate about the trustworthiness of the Bible as history and about the importance of the so-called “ancient Jews.”

Actually there is no such thing as ancient Jews. Jews, furthermore, are not the same thing as Judahites, who are not the same as Israelites, who must be distinguished from Hebrews—and Israelis are something else altogether. The confusion of these terms works greatly to the advantage of the movement for political Zionism and is understood by all open-minded scholars.8

This was a formidable onslaught upon the inspired inerrancy of the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Old Testament, or, more accurately, the Hexateuch, since Joshua seems to show the same hands that wrote Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy). It called attention to scores of what H.L. Mencken called “transparent imbecilities” in the five books, and especially in Genesis, including a dozen or more palpable geographical and historical impossibilities. The answer of the constituted authorities was to suppress the Tractatus, but enough copies got out to reach the proper persons, and ever since then the Old Testament has been under searching and devastating examination. The first conspicuous contributor to that work was a French priest, Richard Simon, but since then the Germans have had more to do with it than any other people, and so it is common for American Christians to think of the so-called Higher Criticism as a German invention, and to lay a good deal of the blame for it upon [Adolf] Hitler and the Kaiser.9

Spinoza asserts, as his general conclusion about scriptural reports of miraculous events in history, that everything that is truly narrated in scripture to have happened necessarily happened, as all things do, according to the laws of nature. And if anything can be found which can be conclusively demonstrated to be contrary to the laws of nature, or not to have been able to follow from them, it should simply be believed that it has been added to the sacred texts by sacrilegious men.10

Tractatus the first book to analyze the Bible systematically as if it were an ancient secular text in Latin or Greek or any ancient tongue. Spinoza de throned the Hebrews and Israelites as the bearers of a unique, divinely inspired truth. There could be no doubt, for Spinoza, that any valid historiology had to deny utterly the centrality of what might be called “the biblical experience.”

The Quakers are said to have dismissed the Old Testament as a “dead letter.”


Thomas Paine, who has been called the “Godfather of America,” further laid the groundwork for biblical historical criticism. He wrote, in his influential 1795 book The Age of Reason:

 It is not the antiquity of a tale that is an evidence of its truth; on the contrary, it is a symptom of its being fabulous; for the more ancient any history pretends to be, the more it has the resemblance of a fable. The origin of every nation is buried in fabulous tradition, and that of the Jews is as much to be suspected as any other.11 (Essai sur les moeurs et l’esprit des nations et sur les principaux faits de l’histoire depuis Charlemagne jusqu’â Louis XIII (Geneva, 1756, known in English as The Essay on Morals)

People began to wonder: Is the Old Testament, then, merely an antique fable?

These matters were discussed on all sides, and even the apologists of orthodoxy, if they hoped to be taken seriously, had to use the tools of historical and philological learning.

In the second half of the 19th century, a school of biblical criticism developed in Germany, of which Julian Wellhausen was a leading figure. It challenged the historicity12 of the Old Testament stories and claimed that biblical historiography was formulated, and in large measure actually invented, during the Babylonian exile. These Bible scholars, the Germans in particular, claimed that the history of the Hebrews, as a series of events beginning with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and proceeding through the exile to Egypt, the enslavement there and the exodus, and ending with the conquest of the land of Canaan and the settlement of the tribes of Israel, was no more than a later reconstruction of events that had never actually happened, and was written with a theological purpose.

Additional fuel was added to the fire with the publication in 1897 of The Myths of Israel: The Ancient Book of Genesis with Analysis and Explanation of Its Composition, by Amos Kidder Fiske (Macmillan Co., New York). Fiske de tailed how different and incompatible versions of various events were cobbled together rather clumsily by whoever compiled the Old Testament, as for example the Elohist and Yahwist versions of the Deluge, resulting in contradictions that would be intolerable in any book purporting to set forth an accurate chronology.13

Perhaps there are contradictions in other ancient documents such as the Iliad or the Epic of Gilgamesh, as well, but if so, only a handful of scholars would know about it, or care, since theIliad does not purport to be history, nor, while important, does it enjoy quite the central importance in our culture that the Bible does.

H.L. Mencken’s Treatise on the Gods was first published in 1930. (A second edition, in 1946, changed little of interest here.) Mencken pointed out that “[W]e have [the Flood myth] from the Jews, who got it from the Baby lonians, who got it from the Sumerians.” He saw in the Flood business the origin of religion, with the world’s first priest being a sort of caveman who boldly attacked the rising waters of a flood with his club or spear. When the waters coincidentally receded, the hypothetical shaman was an instant celebrity within his tribe or band. Mencken wrote that: “The Old Testament, as history, is on a much lower level” than Parson Weems’s Life of Washington orUncle Tom’s Cabin.


In 1987, The Bible: Modern Critical Views was published, a re presentative selection of biblical literary criticism, edited by Har old Bloom (Chelsea House Pub lishers, New York and Phila del phia). Robert Alter, writing there in (“Sacred History and the Beginnings of Prose Fic tion”), described the Old Testament as “sacred history.” Alter suggested that the biblical narratives should best be regarded as historicized prose fiction. He wrote:

The case of the Bible’s sacred history, however, is rather different from that of modern historiography. There is, to begin with, a whole spectrum of relations to history in the sundry biblical narratives, as I shall try to indicate later, but none of these involves the sense of being bound to documentable facts that characterizes history in [its] modern acceptation.14

Today the climate of thought has shifted still further in Thompson’s direction, so that there is a whole cluster of scholars who propose that the Old Testament does not provide us with adequate evidence to construct a history of early Israel. The Old Testament, these scholars are convinced, belongs in the same category as other ancient myths and literature such as the Epic of Gilgameshand the Iliad and the Odyssey. Still, there must be some historical truth in the Old Testament, because some of the things written about therein have been confirmed by archeologists, just as Heinrich Schliemann seemingly confirmed the ancient Homeric writings by discovering what seemed to be the lost city of Troy, once thought by many scholars to be “nothing more than a myth.” (See TBR January/February 2007 for an alternative setting for Homer’s sagas.)

This, and other cases like it, indicate that, sometimes at any rate, myths can be an effective way of preserving bona fide ancient knowledge and wisdom.15

On the other hand, ancient tales such as the saga of Odysseus and his encounter with the Cyclops certainly cannot be taken to imply the historical or prehistoric existence of a race of one-eyed giant human oids. (It is possible the tall tale, no joke intended, was inspired by someone having found the fossil skull of a mastodon; the centrally located nasal opening could easily have been misinterpreted to be an eye socket.) Similarly, we cannot, as historians, prove from the Old Testament that some of its characters, such as Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, actually existed, any more than some of the characters in the dramatic and romantic Shakes peare plays existed.16

Whereas internal contradictions within the Old Testament may suggest that some of these individuals and events are partly or entirely fictional, for the proof of their historicity we must look to other sources, both in the form of extrabiblical ancient docu ments and the evidence of archeology.

Of course, by now we should all understand that many an ancient myth contains valuable nuggets of fact, if we can somehow separate the wheat from the chaff. But certainly this is not to say that myth is history. The question is, how much of what resembles history (or perhaps we should say a chronicle) in the Old Testament corresponds with actual events that occurred in the region?

The cardinal rule of historiology is the balanced search for truth, and one does not find this in a partisan document such as the Old Testament. It does not take a great scholar to realize that the Torah is essentially a panegyric “mythic history” of the Israelites, a people now long extinct but claimed (with little actual justification) as their ancestors by the modern Jews. It is what is known in German as Heilsgeschichte, or a holy and theological pious fiction, but not true historiography. Historiology is an exacting discipline, essentially a science, and immensely different in its aims and methods from those of fiction or theology. In historiology and historionomy, as in other sciences, we cannot say, as Tertullian, the ancient church father, is usually quoted (or actually misquoted), “Credo qui absurdum,” or, more properly, “Credible est, quia ineptum est”—“I believe it because it is impossible to believe.”17


While it is true that the Old Testament reflects many sordid aspects of the lives of its characters, which is surprising in a work allegedly intended to glorify these “founding fathers of the faith” (such as the incident in which King David engineers the death of Uriah so that he can gain access to Uriah’s wife), it is clear that as these tales began to be recorded, the Israelites began to produce an ethnic myth explaining and glorifying their origins, their superiority and justifying their special claim to the land of Canaan/Palestine, of which they had, by one means or another, taken possession, and to exalt themselves above all other peoples and their gods above all other deities. For example, while the Israelite scribes acknowledged the common descent of the “Ishmaelites,” as they called the Arabs, from their great ancestor Abraham, they relegated them to an inferior relation with the story of the Egyptian handmaid and her son. Similarly with the Midianites, Edomites and the especially hated Moabites and Ammonites, who were placed on another line.

There is little reason to believe that the “David” of the Bible is really one person. He may be derived from two or three different Davids of actual history or prehistory, who became conflated in the evolution of the legends that eventually gave rise to the Old Testament. For example, consider the David who supposedly slew Goliath: Many academicians have noted the similarities between the famous ancient Egyptian folktale The Autobiography of Sinuhe and the biblical account of David and Goliath. There is no reason to suppose that this little Egyptian grew up to be a king of Israel.


Noah, of course, conveniently, is made to say, “Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants he shall be unto his brethren,” making it supposedly legitimate for the Israelites to help themselves to the land of Canaan, robbing and murdering the inhabitants. Then there is the curse of Ham, the curse of Cain, and so on, so that in their own stories, only the Israelite people are blessed.

Just as with the Koran, which is now being questioned in regard to its historicity by Revisionists such as Ibn Warraq,18 Paul Fregosi19and others, a number of scholars are now coming forth to analyze, in a critical light, the historical aspects of the Old Testament. Most scholars are not claiming that ancient Israel did not exist at all (just as the Islamic Revisionists do not dispute that some such person as the Koran’s Mohammed existed). But rather the question is whether it was a great empire, as the Old Testament indicates, and whether such biblical individuals as Abraham or Moses, for example, ever existed in real life.

Could the so-called empire of Israel actually be a disguised version of the Egyptian empire, as Revisionist Ahmed Osman reasons? Could the Emperor David actually be an Egyptian pharaoh, who became confused with an Israelite chieftain who also was called David?

Ancient Egyptian documents do not appear to reference Moses—unless he was actually Ahmose I, founder of the 18th dynasty, as Revisionist Ralph Ellis believes (you will note the similarity of “Ahmose” to “Moses”). Nor are there any indications that an Exodus ever took place, unless it is a distorted interpretation of the expulsion of the Hyksos people.20

Since the event describes the departure of a work force of thousands and details the devastation of Egypt by a series of plagues, such an omission by the Egyptians is extraordinary, if such an event actually occurred.

Keith W. Whitelam,21 George Mendenhall, Niels Peter Lemche,22 Philip R. Davies,23 the “Copenhagen school,” and even some distinguished Jews such as Israel Finkelstein (professor and chairman of the archeology department at Tel Aviv University),24 and leading Israeli archeologist Ze’ev Herzog have come to very similar conclusions.

Whitelam’s excellent book, The Invention of Ancient Israel: The Silen cing of Palestinian History(Rout ledge, London and New York, 1996) has a 14-page bibliography, indicative of the seriousness of the scholarship that went into his groundbreaking study, which argues that “ancient Israel” was an invention of the court historians, in the image of a European state. “Ancient Israel” as it is generally understood, never existed, and this fiction has prevented a proper understanding of the history of Palestine, he argues. Whitelam is a professor of religious studies and head of department at the University of Stirling in Britain.

Among other things, the Revisionist “Bible minimalists” claim to have determined that: The acts of the patriarchs (Abraham, Isaac and Jacob) are legendary, and the Israelites did not sojourn in Egypt nor make an “exodus,” nor did they conquer the land of Palestine or Canaan (western Palestine).

Moses, as such, probably did not exist historically but is a legendary individual derived from a blend of various polytheistic sources and real personages such as Sargon of Akkad and Pharaoh Akhenaten of Egypt, in much the same way that the legendary British “Robin Hood” arose as a composite of various imaginary gods and of various people who really lived at one time or another in the dim past. It is very interesting folklore, and does have some basis in truth, but does not qualify as accurate history by any means.

Neither is there any mention, outside of the Bible, of the glorious empire of David and Solomon, other than, at most, as a small tribal kingdom or chiefdom. It is reasonable to surmise, from the available evidence, that King Saul, King David and King Solomon were, if anything, the kings of a very minor nation and not some great empire. Jerusalem, it seems, was nothing more than a “cow town,” the capital of a small statelet in the highlands to the north of the village. Mencken refers to these people as “a little tribe of desert Bedouins, so obscure and unimportant that secular history scarcely knows them.” (287)

Spinoza dealt with:

. . . misconceptions regarding the true authorship of the sacred books, beginning with the Pentateuch. The author is almost universally believed to be Moses, a view so obstinately defended by the Pharisees that they have regarded any other view as a heresy.25

The point is important because Mosaic authorship was regarded as the guarantee of the truth of the text. According to the Westminster Confession of 1658 (a statement of the leading English Protestants), God guaranteed the transmission of His message to Moses and preserved the Mosaic text perfectly in all transmissions from then on.26

Spinoza mentions that Aben Ezra, a medieval Spanish rabbi (ca. 1090-1165), who wrote an important commentary on the Bible, “a man of enlightened mind and considerable learning . . . was the first as far as I know, to call attention to this misconception.” “Aben Ezra” appears to be a short form of the rabbi’s name; H.L. Mencken refers to the 17th-century Spanish rabbi as Abraham ben Meir ibn Ezra, and states: “He unearthed many absurdities, but he had to be very careful about discussing them, and it was not until 500 years later that anything properly describable as scientific criticism of the Old Testament came into being.” Ibn Ezra is, among medieval Jewish scholars and interpreters of the Torah, second only to Rashi in the scope of his influence and the respect he is accorded. His most celebrated work, analyzing the Pentateuch, is generally known as his Commentary to the Torah, was originally titledThe Book of the Upright, which also happens to be the name of a work that is cited in the Bible itself (e.g., Joshua 10:13). The latter part of the rabbi’s life was spent wandering in poverty through Italy, Provence, France, England, Egypt and Palestine. It appears that he may have wound up living in Morocco. It was during his wanderings that he composed most of his many influential literary works.


Among other problems noted by ibn Ezra was the fact that Moses supposedly wrote in detail about his own death.27 The recognition of the non-Mosaic authorship began to have serious and severe repercussions in the 1650s, in the writings of Thomas Hobbes, Isaac La Pey rère, Samuel Fisher and then Spinoza. They all seem to have gotten their view directly or indirectly from ibn Ezra. During the Puritan Revolution, a variety of critics known to history by such colorful names as Ranters, Levelers and Seekers, rejected the Bible for all sorts of reasons, including the obvious problems that learned Old Testament critics had dwelt upon, including the claim that Moses could not have written about his own death.

We can safely conclude that the Old Testament narratives of the past are clearly not history, nor were they written anytime near the eras of which they speak, but rather they reflect the political purposes of their much later authors. So therefore, it is now part of the scholarly consensus that the patriarchal narratives of Genesis do not record events of an alleged patriarchal period but are retrojections into a past about which the writers knew little, reflecting the authors’ intentions at the later period of composition. It is naive, then, to slavishly accept the view that God made the promise of progeny and land to Abraham after the fashion indicated in Genesis 15.28

In the first place, as with the modern Israeli atrocities against the Palestinian people, this would be horrifyingly immoral (try reading the narrative from the viewpoint of the innocent parties about to be exterminated, that is, with the eyes of the Canaanites). In the second place, it is contra-historical.

Scholars now agree, virtually unanimously, that ancient Israel did not come to exist by way of the tribal conquest narrated in Joshua 1-12. Outside of the Bible, we have no evidence of any Hebrew conquest. The archeological evidence points in an altogether different direction. It suggests a sequence of periods marked by a gradual and peaceful coalescence of disparate peoples into a group of highland dwellers whose achievement of a new sense of unity culminated only with the entry of the Assyrian administration. The Iron Age settlements on the central hills of Palestine, from which the later kingdom of Israel developed, reflect continuity with Canaanite culture and repudiate any ethnic distinction between Canaanites and Israelites. Israel’s immediate origins, then, were within Canaan, not somewhere outside it.29

Archeological silence is a problem the biblical inerrantists do not like to talk about. While, according to the Bible, the various Israelite tribes were united for a time into one powerful nation during the reigns of King David and his son Solomon, the archeological record is silent about these kings except for two disputed inscriptions some think may be references to “the house of David.” This is odd, considering that references to other kings of much less biblical importance, such as Omri, Ahab, Jehu and Zedekiah have been clearly found in extrabiblical records. While this silence obviously cannot prove David and Solomon did not exist, it certainly gives rational historians pause to wonder. Assuming that they did exist, they were certainly of far less global importance in real life than the Old Testament makes them out to have been.




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These conclusions have been aired among scholars for years, but political Zionists (especially the Jerry Fallwell types) are stubborn people, and until recently, nobody wanted to hear about it. Israelis and other political Zionists (a respectable segment of the Christian population) like to believe modern Israelis are the descendants of those wonderful Israelites of ancient times, and certainly they use the Old Testament myths to justify the Jewish occupation of Palestine—although ironically most Jews today including the ruling Ashkenazi class in Israel, are not descended from any Middle Eastern people but from the peoples of the Khazar empire of what today is southern Russia.30 Even the Sephardic minority of Jews today are such a mixed race that it appears they can only claim a quite tenuous connection to the ancient Israelites.

Thompson has spent his academic career steeped in this biblical controversy, researching the intertwining archeological histories of Israel and Palestine He has concluded that the Old Testament is not a historical document but should be regarded as a work of fiction, more like a historical novel than a history textbook. Thompson contends, however, that understanding the Old Testament as fictive literature does not have to undermine its spiritual truth and integrity for Christians, and this is important.

Thompson believes: “How the [Old Testament] is related to history has been badly misunderstood. As we have been reading the [Old Testament] within a context that is certainly wrong, and as we have misunderstood the [Old Testament] because of this, we need to seek a context more appropriate. As a result, we will begin to read the [Old Testament] in a new way.”

Thompson is currently a professor of the Old Testa ment at the University of Copenhagen. Thompson’s The Mythic Past: Biblical Archaeology and the Myth of Israel aims to separate the Old Testament from history in order to understand it on its own terms, in the context its authors intended. While parts of Mythic Past value research and analysis over readability, it is arranged to help aspiring scholars negotiate the vast and complex history of biblical understanding.

It should be noted that Thompson authored a magisterial tome in 1992, Early History of the Israelite People (EHIP), of 482 pages, with an extensive bibliography of approximately 900 books, which delves in depth into the questions involved with the historicity or non-historicity of the Bible. Mythic Past is largely a popularization of the compendious and detailed, highly professional but difficult-to-read Early History of the Israelite People .

Many scholars already view the Old Testament as literature and not as factual reporting, but their ideas have not been easily accessible to the general public, nor is such thinking welcome to the average Christian. Even religious skeptics generally tend to think it is in bad taste to air these sensitive matters. And very few ordinary folks will go slogging through a book or journal on academic biblical scholarship or archeology written in turgid prose calculated to put most readers to sleep.

Thompson’s shift in the way we see the Bible is the culmination of centuries of biblical criticism but it is still radical. Western Christianity has always narrated a great epic history of salvation based on the Bible: creation, the fall, the flood, the patriarchs, Moses, the exodus and the law, the conquest, the judges, the kings and prophets, and the promised Messiah. We are now invited to see the whole story as back-projected and mythical.

To read the Old Testament as history, says Thompson, is to distort it. In Thompson’s words, “the misappropriation of ancient texts for purposes contrary to the tradition’s intentions, which two generations of theological use of the Old Testament have now encouraged, is one of those common abuses of intellect” that “contributes to the pollution of the ocean of our language.”

Unlike some others who critically analyze the Old Testament, Thompson does not become cynical, leaving the reader with a desire to “trash” the whole Bible—after all, one might be tempted to ask, if the Bible, constantly referred to by fundamentalists as the “Word of God,”31 isn’t literally true, then what good is it? On the contrary, Thompson finds enormous spiritual and philosophical value in these stories, reminding us that the biblical storytellers were passing on to us the wisdom of the ages, just as we do not demand that the stories told in the works of Shakespeare, even the so-called historical plays, be literally true.

There is even good historical content in the Old Testament, as long as one is willing to contemplate the possibility that one is really reading about Egyptians or Hyksos or Sumerians who have been recast as “Israelites.” Of course, it becomes a tricky and intricate task to sort out the truth from the fiction and the distortions. We must bear in mind that when the Bible was written down, the modern concept of history writing did not exist.

Be that as it may, certainly the time is long overdue for recognizing that the Bible is not a collection of religious texts, but rather a hodgepodge of ancient documents (much reworked), some of which have no religious content at all, while a few may even incline to religious skepticism (Ecclesiastes comes to mind—see “The Style of Koheleth” by Robert Gordis, in Harold Bloom’s The Bible). Written by numerous different authors, many of them unknown, the Bible’s contents are a mixture of good, bad and mediocre, not infrequently contradictory. A highly selective reading of it is required if one is to get a positive moral message from this material—much of which is downright immoral. (You won’t hear about those passages from your local pastor.)

Yet the Old Testament is certainly one of the most influential books ever in the Western World. It is to many a vital part of our heritage, and as such it needs to be properly understood for what it is—and what it is not. Mythic Past achieves this goal and achieves it in a readily comprehensible fashion making the “minimalist” view available to the average reader for the first time.


There have certainly been enough sad, shocking and sickening events in the real history of man’s inhumanity to man. With the exception of a few harmless books such as Ruth, Proverbs and the Song of Solomon, the Old Testament is one of the most blood-soaked tomes one could ever hope to find. Thus, many Revisionists feel that we should perhaps feel relieved, and even rejoice, that some of the horrific, grisly slaughters described therein (such as the armed conquest of Canaan by the Israelites) may never have happened at all. Unfortunately, it is a safe bet that Zionists, including Christian Zionists, will not welcome the news that the ancient Israelites did not slaughter the native Canaanites to anything like the extent the Old Testament leads one to believe.

Thompson’s book may not cover much that has not been covered by other scholars in the past, but it is a controversial volume nevertheless. Any attempt to question the reliability of the biblical historical descriptions is perceived (and rightly so) as tending to undermine the alleged historic right of the Jews (who point to some ambiguous passages in the Old Testament to “prove” that they are “God’s chosen people”) to the lands of Palestine and as shattering the myth of the bandit nation that is supposedly renewing the ancient kingdom of Israel. Unfortunately, the truth is never so monetarily profitable as a clever pack of lies, such as the web the Jewish Zionists and their dupes the Christian Zionists have spun.

Many a Christian will continue to go as a tourist to Israel and give money to the Israeli government, convinced that Moses and David existed and that the Old Testament is literally true—regardless of discrepancies.

Thomas Paine, for one, died friendless and broke because he would not mince words with regard to the truth as he saw it, but spoke and wrote forthrightly. In essence he was a martyr for truth. Voltaire was persecuted and forced to move from one nation to another to avoid “the monster” (“Ecrasez l’infame,” or “crush the beast of persecution,” he was fond of saying to his followers). Thomas L. Thompson, as noted above, has also suffered in very recent times for his honest, scholarly views. But still Revisionists feel morally impelled to always pursue the truth—no matter at what cost.

The mythic legends of Moses, Joshua, King David, Solomon etc are largely fake. The myths of the Old Testament are no more valid than the ancient Greek and Ro man belief in a pantheon of idiosyncratic and psychologically unstable gods. But as today’s Israel derives her very legitimacy for statehood (and for the continued genocide in Palestine) from these ancient fairy tales, it would seem the historical truth in this case undermines the very foundation of the modern state of Israel.

JOHN TIFFANY is the assistant editor for THE BARNES REVIEW. Mr. Tiffany has a B.S. in biology from the University of Michigan (1969) and has been writing professionally for about 30 years.


1 Paperback, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2006.

2 Isaiah 43: 16-19.

3 John Donne, writing in 1611: “And new Philosophy calls all in doubt . . .” was troubled that the old answers no longer were capable of being regarded as true. But modern science has long since inoculated man against the permanence of all answers. (Donne, “The First Anniversary,” in The Poems of John Donne, edited by Sir Robert Grierson [London, Oxford U. Press, 1933] 205-18.) Donne was not alone in his worry that all coherence was gone, that the natural order was giving way to disorder. (David H. Levy, Starry Night: Astronomers and Poets Read the Sky,Prometheus Books, Amherst, N.Y., 2001.)

4 Eventually the Roman Catholic Church had to swallow the Copernican astronomy, by fiat of the Holy Office, on September 11, 1822, nearly three centuries after De Revolutionibus Orbium Caelestium was published. H.L. Mencken (259) predicted that the same thing would happen with the theory of evolution.

5 The Mappa Mundi,or map of the world, in question here is a late l3th-century parchment credited to Richard of Holdingham. (Trilobite: Eyewitness to Evolution, Richard Fortey, Borzoi Books, Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 2000, 191.)

6 As Tennyson, who knew that dinosaurs had once strode the Earth and were now extinct, poetically expressed it: The hills are shadows, and they flow From form to form, and nothing stands; They melt like mist, the solid lands, Like clouds they shape themselves and go. There rolls the deep where grew the tree. O Earth, what changes hast thou seen! There where the long street roars hath been The stillness of the central sea.

7 Van Flandern, Tom, Dark Matter, Missing Planets and New Comets: Paradoxes Resolved: Origins Illuminated, North Atlantic Books, Berkeley, California, 1993. Van Flandern finds many flaws in the Big Bang theory and has an entire cosmology of his own devising that is worthy of attention.

8 The word “Hebrew,” anciently written as “Habiru,” means “one who is from across the river,” i.e., an alien. In Egyptian writings, the word is paired with “sagaz,” meaning “cutthroat” or “bandit.”

9 Mencken, H.L., Treatise on the Gods, 2d ed., copyright Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 1946, reprinted by Johns Hopkins University Press, 1997, available from THE BARNES REVIEW BOOK CLUB, 94 pp., #229, $18.

10 Tractatus Theologico-Politicus, vi. 51.

11 Here is a typical quote from Age of Reason:There is a striking confusion between the historical and the chronological arrangement in the book of Judges. This shows the uncertain and fabulous state of the Old Testament. According to the chronological arrangement, the taking of Laish, and giving it the name of Dan, is made to be 20 years after the death of Joshua, who was the successor of Moses; and by the historical order, as it stands in the book, it is made to be 306 years after the death of Joshua, and 331 after that of Moses; but they both exclude Moses from being the writer of Genesis, because, according to either of the statements, no such a place as Dan existed in the time of Moses; and therefore the writer of Genesis must have been some person who lived after the town of Laish had the name of Dan; and who that person was nobody knows, and consequently the book of Genesis is anonymous; without authority.” And another: “Take away from Genesis the belief that Moses was the author . . . and there remains nothing of Genesis but an anonymous book of stories, fables, and traditionary or invented absurdities, or of downright lies. The story of Eve and the serpent, and of Noah and his ark, drops to a level with the Arabian Tales, without the merit of being entertaining, and the account of men living to eight and nine hundred years becomes as fabulous as the immortality of the giants of the mythology.

12 We need to distinguish two terms here: the “historicity” of the Old Testament, and the “authenticity” of the Old Testament. Some authors would reverse the definitions, but as used here, by the historicity of the Old Testament is meant the correspondence between events and persons described in the Old Testament with events that actually transpired and people who really lived. The authenticity of the Old Testament would mean the degree to which the Bible as we know it today corresponds with what its original writers intended for it to say. It is a known fact that various theologians down through the centuries have rewritten the Bible to suit their particular agenda—a process that would usually detract from whatever historical truth may have been in it to start with. Herein we will not deal with the authenticity debate, although it might be noted in passing that the Bible, according to most modern, respected biblical scholars, is one of the most tampered-with scriptures on Earth, with dubious authorship and beginnings.

13 A couple of web sites list numerous historical contradictions in the Old Testament. Among these, to mention just a few, are these: How old was Ahaziah when he took the throne? “Two and twenty years old was Ahaziah when he began to reign.” (2 Kings 8:26) “Forty and two years old was Ahaziah when he began to reign.” (2 Chronicles 22:2) When the chief of the mighty men of David lifted up his spear, how many men did he kill at one time? “Eight hundred.” (2 Samuel 23:8) “Three hundred.” (1 Chronicles 11:11) fromLosing Faith in Faith: From Preacher to Atheist, by Dan Barker, and The Angelfire website lists 101 contradictions, and Barker asserts that there are thousands of discrepancies in the Old Testament.)

14 The Bible: Modern Critical Views 22.

15 An example is the seminal work Hamlet’s Mill: An Essay Investigating the Origins of Human Knowledge and Its Transmission Through Myth,by Giorgio de Santillana and Hertha Von Dechend (Nonpareil Books, 1969).

16 Regarding Abraham, what can we say of a supposed historical figure whose life story conforms virtually in every detail to the mythic hero archetype, with nothing, no “secular” or mundane information, left over? It doesn’t prove there was no historical King David, for it is not unreasonable that a genuine historical individual might become so lionized, even so deified, that his life and career would be completely assimilated to the mythic hero archetype, i.e. King Arthur. But if that happened, we could no longer be sure there had ever been a real person at the root of the whole thing. The stained glass would have become just too thick to peer through. Alexander the Great, Caesar, Cyrus, Arthur and others have nearly suffered this fate. What keeps historians from dismissing them as mere myths, like Paul Bunyan, is that there is some residue. We know at least a bit of mundane information about them, perhaps quite a bit, that does not form part of any legend cycle. Or they are so intricately woven into the history of the time that it is impossible, to make sense of that history without them. This is not the case with King David.

17 We shall leave to one side such quotations as that of Niels Bohr, who, when speaking to a younger theoretical physicist, is said to have said: “Your theory is crazy. But it’s not crazy enough to be true.” Similarly, the common saying that, “Truth is stranger than fiction,” is no justification for an uncritical or “anything goes” approach in history. In Tertullian’s treatise De Carne Christi,he is arguing against Marcion, whose contention was that the humiliation implied in the fact of the Incarnation was unworthy of God. Tertullian answers this in a passage splendidly paradoxical and profoundly spiritual: “Spare the whole world’s one and only hope, thou who art destroying the indispensable dishonor of our faith. Whatever is unworthy of God is of gain to me. . . . The Son of God is born; we are not ashamed, because we ought to be ashamed. And the Son of God died; it is perfectly credible, because it is absurd. And being buried He rose again; it is certain, because it is impossible.” (“Natus est Dei Filius; non pudet quia pudendum est; et mortuus est Dei Filius; prorsus credibile est quia ineptum est; et sepultus resurrexit; certum est quia impossibile”) To a scientist, this is on a par with the statement by the Red Queen to Alice that it was her regular practice “to believe six impossible things every day before breakfast.” The fact that theoretical physics, and even mathematics, the queen of sciences, are rife with paradoxes (one thinks, for example, of how the Polish mathematicians Stefan Banach and Alfred Tarski in 1924 proved that it is theoretically possible to take a small solid sphere, say the size of a pea, divide it into a finite number of parts and reassemble them into a solid sphere the size of the Sun, which violates our intuitive understanding of the meaning of the word “volume”) is a separate issue. Anyway, history, which is full of unexpected twists and turns, demands evidence, not plausibility. Just as a butterfly fluttering its wings a certain way by chance in Peking may cause a tornado to occur in Kansas, as chaos theorists inform us, so the course of world history might be utterly changed by such a trivium as the happenstance length of a woman’s nose (Cleopatra). It is, in fact, fiction that demands plausibility; and this is the basis for Thompson’s argument on behalf of a literary approach to biblical material. Still, when what is promoted as being history is simply too fantastic to be believable, it becomes necessary to take a closer look at the verifiable facts, for, as the scientists might say, an extraordinary scenario requires extraordinary proof.

18 Author of Why I Am Not a Muslim andThe Quest for the Historical Muhammad.

19 Author of Jihad in the West.

20 Tempest & Exodus, by Ralph Ellis, Edfu Books, pub. in the U.S. by Adventures Unlimited, Kempton, Ill., 2000, 2001.

21 Author of The Invention of Ancient Israel.

22 Author of The Israelites in History and Tradition, and of Prelude to Israel’s Past: Background and Beginnings of Israelite History and Identity.

23 Author of Scribes and Schools: The Canonization of the Hebrew Scriptures.

24 Author with Neil Asher Silberman of The Bible Unearthed: Archaeology’s New Vision of Ancient Israel and the Origin of Its Sacred Text.

25 Tractatus viii., 161.

26 The Cambridge Companion to Spinoza, Don Garett, ed., Cambridge University Press, 1996, 386.

27 Similar problems exist with regard to Isaiah, for example. The prophet Isaiah is traditionally supposed to have written the book of Isaiah; but while it is very likely that he wrote parts of it, “[t]he idea of his having written the whole of it is completely impossible. In several chapters he is actually spoken of in the third person. Three main documents have been separated from the book, but there are also other lesser ones, and two whole chapters appear to be lifted bodily from II Kings. Isaiah has strained biblical scholarship very uncomfortably, and many of the problems that it presents are still under furious discussion. The literature upon the subject is almost endless, and makes very hard reading.” (Mencken 200)

28 “Confronting the Bible’s Ethnic Cleansing in Palestine,” by Michael Prior, C.M., in The Link,published by Americans for Middle Eastern Understanding Inc., vol. 33, No. 5, Dec. 2000.

29 Ibid.

30 Worth quoting in this connection is a passage from the prominent Jewish writer Arthur Koestler. He told this curious but little-known story in his 1976 book The Thirteenth Tribe: [T]he large majority of surviving Jews in the world is of Eastern European—and thus mainly of Khazar—origin. If so, this would mean that their ancestors came not from the Jordan but from the Volga, not from Canaan but from the Caucasus . . . and that genetically they are more closely related to the Hun, Uigur and Magyar tribes than to the seed of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Should this turn out to be the case, then the term “anti-Semitism” would become void of meaning . . . The story of the Khazar empire, as it slowly emerges from the past, begins to look like the most cruel hoax which history had ever perpetrated. Corroborating Koestler, a noted French Jew, Prof. Maxime Rodinson, has observed: “it is very probable that the so-called Arab inhabitants of Palestine . . . have much more of the ancient Hebrews’ ‘blood’ than most of the Jews of the diaspora, whose religious exclusiveness in no way prevented them from absorbing converts of various religions.” It will surely be acknowledged, then, that for such people to denounce Palestinian Arabs as “anti-Semites” for resisting the Khazar-Zionist seizure of their millennia-old homes and lands must be close to the height (or depth) of what these folks smirkingly call chutzpah(Talk About Hate, by William N. Grimstad, Council on Hate Crimes Injustice, 1999)

31 As early as the 17th century, controversies arose as to the theory of the inspiration of the Bible, which led certain theologians to change the formula from, “The Bible is the Word of God,” to, “The Bible contains the Word of God.”


Ahlstrom, Gosta W., The History of Ancient Palestine,

Augsburg Fortress Publishers, 1993.

Bright, John,A History of Israel, 4th ed., Westminster

John Knox Press, 2000.

Dever, William G., What Did the Biblical Writers Know

and When Did They Know It?: What Archaeology Can Tell Us

About the Reality of Ancient Israel, Wm. B. Eerdmans

Publishing Co., 2002.

Dever, William G., Who Were the Early Israelites and

Where Did They Come From?, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing

Co., 2006. (Available from TBR BOOK CLUB.)

Miller, James Maxwell, A History of Ancient Israel and

Judah, 2d ed., Westminster John Knox Press, 2006.

Perdue, Leo G., Reconstructing Old Testament Theology:

After the Collapse of History (Overtures to Biblical Theology),

Augsburg Fortress Publishers, 2005.

Smith, Mark S., The Origins of Biblical Monotheism:

Israel’s Polytheistic Background and the Ugaritic Texts, Oxford

University Press, USA, 2003.

Thompson, Thomas L., Early History of the Israelite

People: From the Written & Archaeological Sources, Brill

Academic Publishers, 2000.

Thompson, Thomas L., The Mythic Past: Biblical Archaeology



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by Sidney Woolf

Whoever wrote the First Book of the Kings and the Second Book of the Chronicles could not foresee the detailed verification potential of modern archaeology.

The city of King Solomon in Jerusalem is thought to be on the slope leading down from what is now the Al Aqsa mosque. Israeli archaeologists have been desperately excavating the site for many decades yet not one iota of evidence of the existence of King Solomon has been found. No mention of his name has been found on any tablet, inscription, tax record or pot decoration.

Anyone who has visited Egypt will have seen widespread evidence of a monarch who reigned three hundred years before Solomon, Pharaoh Rameses II, yet of King Solomon who ruled over a vast empire and army (1 Kings 4, 21-26 and 1 Kings 9, 17-23, 2 Chronicles 9, 25-26) there is no trace. All the vassal peoples who paid taxes to him have left not a single record of account or inscription. Not one of the soldiers of his conquering army left a sword, helmet or shield.

Professor Yadin’s two volume work "The Art Of Warfare In Biblical Lands" (International Publishing Co. Ltd., Jerusalem 1963) has ample illustrated examples of discovered contemporary armour and weapons from other lands, but one looks in vain for a single item from the Solomonic empire.

Search through Israel’s museums and you will find no evidence from the empire although there are ample artefacts marked "Canaan" or "Philistine". It is inconceivable that if Solomon and his empire had existed in reality not a trace of them could be found from all the archaeological "digs" throughout Israel.

Who then created this fiction, when and why? Many Hebrews of the Babylonian captivity, 586 BCE rose to leading positions in Babylon, became established and wealthy. They had no wish to return to the harsh life of a deserted and derelict land. The Hebrew people were facing the greatest threat ever: total annihilation by assimilation, and their land had been entered by armed hostile tribes.

A young guard of "Zionist" activists grew up, just as they did recently in the former Soviet Union. In order to attract people to the idea of returning they had to create a glorious past, military conquests and a rich empire. Hence the symbol of Solomon.

The books of the Old Testament, except Nehemiah, were written during the same period for the same purpose - becoming the hoax of the millennia.

It is no coincidence that the writers created Abraham as going from Babylon (Ur of the Chaldees) to Canaan, which is precisely the journey they were convincing the Hebrews to undertake.

The Exodus story was to demonstrate that even fleeing from slavery, enduring forty years with their only food being provided by God, and facing powerful armies, the Hebrews triumphed and re-established their state.

How much easier their re-establishing would be now!

The problem would have arisen of Babylonian mixed union parents and offspring being ostracized in the return to the state. The story of Ruth and Boaz was inserted to allay such fears.
The books of the Old Testament could not have been written during the era of the Kings, before the Babylonian captivity, as the invidious comparison of the weak king with the former power of Solomon would have resulted in the execution of the writers. Furthermore, to forecast long before the captivity and the resulting large settlement of Hebrews in Ur, that Abraham, the fictitious founder of the nation, will come from there of all places, would have made the authors remarkable fortune tellers.
There are only three possibilities for the writing of the Torah and associated books: 1. They were written by god; 2. They were written by humans inspired by god; 3. They were written by humans. If they were written or inspired by the omniscient god there would be light-years, galaxies, supernovae, black holes, and not the fairy tales in Genesis.
The writers created an  omnipotent god that demanded subservience but also attended to the wants and emotions of every human being. This is the object of the story of Abraham and Isaac. Such a god has been so attractive for thousands of years to humans fearful of a lonely, cold,empty universe.
The custom was for small captive nations to be assimilated into the population of the captors and disappear from history, as happened to the Philistines. By writing these books of the Old Testament the authors convinced sufficient numbers of the Hebrews to prevent this happening to them. Although intended only for contemporary compatriots these writings by genius Hebrews have inluenced belief for thousands of years after their time. They also preserved an influential Hebrew community in Babylon.
There are many human interest, romantic and sexual stories in the books by authors who evidently loved to write. Academic proof and disproof are not possible as there are no extant relevant original documents. The latter may have been deliberately destroyed to increase the god belief factor.

Millions of people have died in the Middle East and the Western World through killing each other over fiction.



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Writing Israel out of the History of Palestine




Every history is an invented history, or a society's cultural memory. When there are more groups than one present within a given community, we may reckon with more than one cultural memory. In a time of conflict the victors will decide which memory is the "correct" one and it will be written in textbooks and taught in schools. The historian might want to protest, as he insists that he knows the correct version, but memories cannot be controlled by professional historians who don't pay much attention to historical "facts."

By Niels Peter Lemche
University of Copenhagen
October 2012


Recently Richard Elliott Friedman reacted in the Huffington Post to a challenge from the president of Iran Mr. Ahmadinejod that Israel has no roots in the history of the Middle East ( ). It is of course not a problem to destroy any credibility concerning Ahmadinajod's interpretation of history. We all remember his denial of the Holocaust (which would earn him a year in prison if he ever visited Germany or Austria as a private person). Mr. Ahmadinejod is hardly a worthy opponent to a scholar of Friedman's status.

The interesting part of this is, however, why Prof. Friedman spent so much paper on refuting the assertions of the Iranian president. It is such a ridiculous postulate that we only need one reference, i.e., the Merneptah-stele, to tell us that there was something by the name of Israel in this region as early as 1200 BCE. And if you ask for more evidence, please see the Mesha inscription from Moab from the 9th century BCE. The rest of Prof. Friedmann's examples are only beating an already dead horse.

We may, on the other hand, ask why is there at present this obsession with the rewriting of Palestinian history? Even a liberal Israeli newspaper such as Ha'aretz has expressed regret that Palestinian historians are writing Israel out of the ancient history of Palestine, and a major study has recently been published by Motti Golani and Adel Manna discussing the way the other has been removed from recent history when it comes to the 1948 conflict.1 What is history to one part is non-history to the other: the foe does not exist.

But are Palestinian historians doing what has already been done to them? In 1996, Keith Whitelam published his The invention of Ancient Israel with the subtitle: The Silencing of Palestinian History.2 It was Whitelam's thesis that the history of ancient Israel has been promoted to such a degree that every other history relevant to Palestine has been silenced, i.e., deliberately suppressed, and he was evidently right. Recent studies have shown how this has worked since the establishment of modern Israel, with that State attempting to erase every remnant, or better, memory, of the presence of the Palestinians. We only need to mention the renaming of Palestinian sites, whether ancient or modern, sometimes with amusing results (such as the misnaming of Tell Sheikh el-'Areini as Gath in 1953).

Every history is an invented history, or a society's cultural memory. When there are more groups than one present within a given community, we may reckon with more than one cultural memory. In a time of conflict the victors will decide which memory is the "correct" one and it will be written in textbooks and taught in schools. The historian might want to protest, as he insists that he knows the correct version, but memories cannot be controlled by professional historians who don't pay much attention to historical "facts." They represent political decisions and choices and whatever people agree on as their "history."3 It is obvious that the erasing of Palestinian history after 1948 was a deliberate political act. It should therefore not be a surprise when the Palestinians also move to roll history back.

The really interesting thing is that "ancient Israel" as a cultural memory represents the deliberate choice of a certain community (according to my magical spectacles, this community is the Judaism of the Persian and especially Hellenistic and Roman periods). It can in many ways be argued that the choice of the version of "Israel's" history found in the Old Testament at the same time represented the silencing of all other histories relevant to other groups living at that time in the land of Palestine, including as the most obvious example the history of the Samaritans. Every story or memory not directly relevant to the Jewish elite of the fourth through first centuries (BCE) was silenced, forgotten and erased. Thus the memory of the Samaritan community at Mt. Gerizim was totally left in silence, apart from the temple destroyed by Hyrcanus shortly before 100 BCE. Only recently has a new interest in the history of the Samaritans appeared.

What happened was that the history of a Palestinian state of the name of Bît Humriya, respectively Samarina, or even Israel which was in existence roughly speaking between 900 and 700 BCE was rewritten in such a way that it also became Jewish history in the shape of biblical Israel. If the Samaritans had a memory of their own, i.e., a version of Israel's history that did not fit in, it was forgotten. Ancient Israel never existed, understood as the modern rewriting of the biblical story about the people of God, its "Israel." It is absolutely in line with this observation that "Israel" was, in Antiquity, never used as a political name. Thus the Hasmonean rulers called themselves leaders of the community of the Jews as testified by their coinage.4

It is, however, absolutely astounding that the only inscriptions from ancient times in which individuals proclaim themselves to be Israelites are found outside of modern Israel, on the Island of Delos. They are in Greek and the Israelites mentioned here comes from Crete (Knossos and Heracleon) and they expressly mention their attachment to the holy place at Gerizim.5 They have no religious ties to Jerusalem but to Gerizim, and should by all means be reckoned as Samaritans, but in their own eyes they areIsraelites.

Cultural memory is everything but a neutral story about the past. It is a highly political issue. It is not about some stray inscriptions in Hebrew or about pig bones or the absence of pig bones, it is about what people believe in or are told to believe in as their story. It is certainly also something people are not ready to depart from easily. We saw in Israel the very violent reaction to Shlomo Sand's study, The Invention of the Jewish People6 very shortly after it appeared. To many Israeli readers (and non-readers) it was the worst book ever published, although Sand is himself a Jewish historian at the University of Tel Aviv. This is not about whether or not the book is as bad as some claim or whether or not Sand is right, it is about his challenge to the accepted cultural memory of modern Israel.

So moving back to Friedman's settlement with Ahmadinejod, Friedman is obviously right and Ahmadinejod wrong, but at the same time Ahmadinajod is right and Friedman wrong if we begin to discuss the content of the word "Israel" in this connection. Friedman definitely subscribes to the official version of Israel's cultural memory. This memory is founded on the Bible and therefore has marvelous support everywhere in Jewish and Christian communities. It may, on the other hand, be questioned whether or not this Israel of Friedman is representative of the society that once existed in Palestine in ancient times. If Ahmadinejod argued that biblical Israel is an invention and foreign to the ancient history of the Middle East, he is not left totally in the wilderness. On the other hand, he probably does not have a clue about any of this.

To be sure, it is possible to write a history of ancient Palestine without recourse to the Old Testament. I have done so, and it worked perfectly. The cultural memory embedded in the Old Testament has not much to contribute to this history. It rather distorts the history of the country by focusing exclusively on only one element and ignoring all the other elements belonging to the ancient history of this territory.7

And a final note: I have constantly used the name ‘Palestine’ of the territory otherwise called Canaan, Eretz Israel, the Holy Land, and more. According to Israeli historians this name is Roman and a consequence of Hadrian's renaming of the country after the Bar Kochba rebellion. It is true that the Romans reintroduced the name, but Herodotus had previously used it of the territory between Egypt and Syria, and before him, Sennacherib campaigned (according to his own annals) in Palestine. Having a name for the place where you live means identity; removing this name means removing, cancelling identity. Hadrian did, indeed rename the country, but he did not replace the name of Israel with Palestine but the name of the province of Judah. We have absolutely no indication that before the rebellion the political name of the country was Israel.



1 Two Sides of the Coin: Independence and Nakba 1948. Two Narratives of the 1948 War and its Outcome (Dordrecht: Republic of Letters, 2011).

2 London: Routledge, 1996.

3 Reminding us of Napoleon's view of history: Isn't it a fable which people have agreed on.

4 Particulars will be published in my contribution to an introduction to Cultural Memory studies and the Bible edited by Pernille Carstens.

5 Cf on these now the discussion in Magnar Kartveit, The Origin of the Samaritans(Vetus Testamentum, Supplements, 128; Leiden: Brill, 2009), 216-24, but also the more sharply formulated commentary in Niels Peter Lemche, The Greek Israelites and Gerizim in Tal Davidovich, in Tal Davidivich (ed.), Plogbillar & svärd: En festskrift till Stig Norin (Uppsala: Molin & Sorgenfrei, 2012), 147-154.

6 London: Verso, 2009.

7 Cf. my The Old Testament between Theology and History (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2008), 393-453. On the history of ancient Israel as invented, cf. also Mario Liverani, Israel's History and the History of Israel (London: Equinox, 2005).



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In a September 22nd, 2002 speech to visiting Christian Zionists, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon asserted, "This land is ours... God gave us the title deeds..." However, recent scholarly research, including discoveries by an archaeological team from the University of Tel Aviv, not only deconstruct the Biblical Old Testament and Torah stories upon which this claim rests, but grant previously unthinkable credence to an ancient historian?s claim that the Israelites of Exodus were actually the Hyksos, and therefore of Asiatic origin.

To trace the foundations of this ongoing Biblical bonfire, we must go back to 1999.

All hell broke loose in Israel in November of that year when Prof. Ze?ev Herzog of Tel Aviv University announced: "the Israelites were never in Egypt, did not wander the desert, did not conquer the land, and did not pass it on to the twelve tribes". Moreover, the Jewish God YHWH had a female consort - the goddess Asherah!

His conclusion that the kingdom of David and Solomon was at best a small tribal monarchy, at worst total myth, has made enemies for him in the camps of traditional Jewish and Christian belief systems. He asserts: all evidence demonstrates that the Jews did not adopt monotheism until the 7th Century BCE - a heresy according to the Biblical tradition dating it to Moses at Mount Sinai.

Tel Aviv University?s archaeological investigation at Megiddo and examination of the six-sided gate there dates it to the 9th Century BCE, not the 10th Century BCE claimed by the 1960?s investigator Yigael Yadin who attributed it to Solomon. Herzog, moreover, states that Solomon and David are "entirely absent in the archaeological record".

In addition, Herzog?s colleague, Israel Finkelstein, claims the Jews were nothing more than nomadic Canaanites who bartered with the city dwellers.

The team?s studies concluded that Jerusalem did not have any central status until 722 BCE with the destruction of its northern rival Samaria.

However, the real bombshell is Herzog?s discovery of numerous references to Yahweh having a consort in the form of Asherah. Inscriptions, written in Hebrew by official Jewish scribes in the 8th century BCE, were found in numerous sites all over the land. For Yahweh, supposedly the "One God", to have had a female consort and, of all people, the goddess Asherah, is dynamite of wide ranging significance.

The Secret Identity of Yahweh

The use of Yahweh as the name of God has always fuelled speculation and philosophical argument. YHWH, sometimes pronounced Jehovah, is taken to mean "I AM" or "I AM WHO I AM". There is also the puzzle of the rule that his mysterious real name is not to be spoken.

The identification of the goddess Asherah (Asherat) as His consort somewhere within the original Jewish faith leads to some explosive conclusions about the identity of the Jewish/Christian God of the Cosmos, the one Monotheistic God with whom we are so familiar from western religion.

But before looking at Asherah, and what she means to the identity of Yahweh, it is worth taking a look at another goddess, Ashteroth. Her significance will become evident a little later. Referred to as an "abomination" in 2 Kings, Ashteroth was an important deity in the Near East pantheons.

To the Sumerians she was IN.ANNA (Anu?s beloved) and is an important character in the Sumerian Epics. To the Assyrians and Babylonians she was Ishtar; Ashtoreth was her name for the Canaanites; to the Greeks - Aphrodite; the Romans - Venus. The most important equivalent however is the Egyptian goddess Hathor, who the Greeks identified with Aphrodite. Hathor was the wife of Horus, the God of War. Hathor is identified with the symbol of the cow, and statues of her in the 26th Dynasty (572 - 525 BC) in Egypt actually depict her as a cow.

Asherah, (whose name means "she who walks in the sea") supposedly consort of the supreme god El, was also referred to as Elath (the goddess). According to the Ugarit tradition, whose clay tablets contain the earliest known alphabet, she was consort of El, and mother of seventy gods. She is also associated with Baal and is supposed to have interceded to her husband, the supreme god, on Baal?s behalf, for the building of a palace - in order to grant him equal status with other gods.

In the cuniform tablets of Ras Shamrah (Circa 1400 BCE) the head of the Pantheon was El; his wife was Asherat-of-the-sea (Asherah). After El, the greatest god was Baal, son of El and Asherah. Curiously, Baal?s consort is his mother, Asherah. In the Lebanon traditions Baal is equated with Jupiter.

Carvings of Asherah in Syria show her wearing Egyptian head-dress. She was also referred to later as "the cow" - a reference to her great age.

Significantly, Baalat (an important Goddess at Byblos) is depicted in carvings as having cow?s horns, between which is a halo. Baalat is in fact the form of Asherah when she appears alongside Baal.

But what does this say about the identity of Yahweh? The Bible has always presented a confusing picture of Yahweh. In the light of Herzog?s discoveries and conclusions that Yahweh?s consort was Asherah, it deserves a closer examination.

Exodus 6:3 states "And I appeared unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob, by [the name of] God Almighty (El Shaddai), but by my name "I AM" was I not known to them." In the King James Version, "I AM" is translated as Jehovah (Yahweh) but means the same: "I AM". The use of "God Almighty" is a traditional translation of Shaddai, thought to have meant "Omnipotent", but arguably it could be linked to the Akkadian root word Shadu, meaning literally "mountains".

And El Shaddai is only one of the versions of God described in Genesis. El Shaddai literally translated means, "God the one of the mountains", but there was also El Olam (God the everlasting one) El Elyon (God most high) El Ro?i (God of vision).

The obvious question is, why did YHWH reveal himself to the patriarchs as El Shaddai? The answer lies in the religious traditions of Canaan, where Abraham is said to have lived for a time, and which were brought to Canaan by the Phoenicians. (In turn, the root of Phoenician religious tradition is Sumer).

God-the-one-of-the-mountains has a Sumerian equivalent. ISH.KUR, the youngest son of Enlil, means God the one of the far mountains. Ishkur was also known as Adad or Hadad in Hebrew, brother of Nannar/Sin, and was the pre-eminent God of Canaan - El-Shaddai.

According to biblical scholars who focus on the "P Source" for the old testament, Yahweh as a name is first used with Moses in Exodus, and is indicative of monolatory (exclusive worship of one of many Gods) rather than monotheism. The name Yahweh can also be translated as "I am who I am", literally a way of saying "mind your own business", a way of disguising his true identity. Yahweh does not appear until Exodus and, strangely, the god Baal is entirely absent in Genesis.

(El Shaddai is still venerated in the Jewish faith in the form of the Teffilin, one of two small leather cube-shaped cases containing Torah Texts, traditionally to be worn by males from the age of 13. The Teffilin are worn in a manner to represent the letters shin, daleth, and yod, which together form the name Shaddai.)

In Exodus 33:2 it states "And I will send an angel before thee; and I will drive out the Canaanite, the Amorite, and the Hittite, and the Perizzite, the Hivite, and the Jebusite:
33:3 Unto a land flowing with milk and honey: for I will not go up in the midst of thee; for thou [art] a stiffnecked people: lest I consume thee on the way."

This Yahweh is prone to violence and seems to despise his chosen people. He is a perfect match for ISH.KUR (Hadad), whose land is occupied by the Amorites and Hittites, and is a known demonstrator of violence and contempt for his worshipers.

ISH.KUR?s image, traits, and symbols match those of Baal. He is also anti-Babylon and anti-Egypt, as is Yahweh. And like Yahweh?s, the real name of the Canaanite Baal (Hadad) must not be spoken.

On the basis of Herzog?s discovery, the evidence within the Bible itself, the Sumerian, Phoenician and Canaanite traditions, the following is a logical conclusion and solution to the identity of the Jewish God of the Old Testament: ISH.KUR = Hadad = El Shaddai = Baal = Yahweh. (The Canaanite?s Baal was also known as Moloch, who we will examine later.)

This indicates, as does Herzog?s work, that the Jewish people evolved from polytheism to monotheism with the promotion of a god who had been known by a variety of names, into one supreme God, Yahweh (whose real name must not be spoken), and that they adopted for this purpose, not the supreme God of the Pantheons, El, but his son - ISH.KUR, Baal, Hadad, El-Shaddai, an entity who was in open revolt against his father El, and ultimately aided in this revolt by his mother and consort, Asherah, (also known as Baalat, Ashteroth, Elat).

This female entity was later merged by Greek and Roman traditions into Aphrodite and Venus, and known earlier to the Egyptians as Isis.

Once we understand this, the etymology of the name Israel - Is (either Isis or tomb) Ra (Head of the Egyptian Pantheon) El (Lord - Baal) - makes far more obvious sense than the convoluted "Yisrael" yarn from the Hebrew faith.

But what does all this do to the validity of the "Title Deeds" from God that Ariel Sharon refers to? Quite apart from the obvious conclusion that the god assumed to have given the "promised land" to his chosen people was just one god from a pantheon and not the alleged monotheistic only God of the cosmos, Herzog?s findings corroborate theories that have been "out there" for some time.

The Hyksos

Like Herzog, the historian Josephus (c. 37CE - c. 100CE) denied the account of the Hebrews being held in captivity in Egypt, but he went a drastic step further about the racial origins of the Jews, whom he identified with the Hyksos. He further claimed they did not flee from Egypt but were evicted due to them being leprous.

It must be said that Josephus has been vilified over the ages as a Roman collaborator by both Jewish and Christian scholars who have argued that the dating of the exodus of the "Hebrews" from Egypt in the Bible positively rules out their identification as Hyksos.

However, Jan Assmann, a prominent Egyptologist at Heidelberg University, is quite positive in his writings that the Exodus story is an inversion of the Hyksos expulsion and furthermore that Moses was an Egyptian.

Likewise, Donald P. Redford, of Toronto University, presents striking evidence that the Expulsion of the Hyksos from Egypt was inverted to construct the exodus of the Hebrew slaves story in the Torah and Old Testament. His book, which argued this theory, "Egypt, Canaan, and Israel in Ancient Times" was Winner of the 1993 Best Scholarly Book in Archaeology Award of the Biblical Archaeological Society.

There is irrefutable evidence that the Hyksos, a mixed Semitic-Asiatic group who infiltrated the Nile valley, seized power in Lower Egypt in the 17th Century BCE. They ruled there from c. 1674 BCE until expelled when their capital, Avaris, fell to Ahmose around 1567 BCE.

The Hyksos in Egypt worshipped Set, who like ISH.KUR they identified as a storm deity.

Under the "inversion theory", Jewish scholars in the 7th Century BCE changed the story from "expelled" to "escaped" and as a further insult to their enemy, Ahmose, changed and miss-spelt his name to Moses, presenting him as leader of a Hebrew revolt. But there is also a strong possibility of two separate origins to the "Moses" character being merged into one, which I will come to later.

Ahmose?s success in 1567 BCE led to the establishment of the 18th Dynasty in Egypt. ThotMoses III overthrew the transvestite Pharaoh Atchepsut, and under ThotMoses IV Egyptian conquests extended beyond the Sinai into Palestine, Syria, reaching Babylonia and included Canaan.

By the end of this expansion, Amenophis III (1380BCE) ruled an Egyptian empire whose provinces and colonies bordered what is now known as Turkey. This empire would have included the regions in which most of the expelled Hyksos now lived.

Amenophis IV succeeded the throne in 1353BCE. He established a new monotheism cult establishing "Aten" as the one supreme god and he changed his name to Akhenaton. Married to the mysterious Nefertiti, Akhenaton declared himself a god on earth, intermediary between the one-god Aten (Ra) and humanity, with his spouse as partner, effectively displacing Isis and Osiris in the Egyptian Enead.

Declaring all men to be the children of Aten, historians suspect Akhenaton planned an empire-wide religion. He banned all idolatry, the use of images to represent god, and banned the idea that there was more than one supreme god.

It is alongside Akhenaten and his father Amenophis III that we find the second Moses.

An important figure during this period was confusingly called Amenophis son of Hapu. He was First Minister (Vizier) to both kings. He is generally depicted as a scribe, crouching and holding on his knees a roll of papyrus. He more than anyone was responsible for authoring the religion in which the old gods were merged into one living god, Aten, who had been responsible for the creation of the Earth and of humanity.

The symbol of this god, the sun disk, represented Ra, Horus and the other gods in one. The sun disk, in symbolism, was supported between the horns of a bull. The Son of Hapu says this about creation: "I have come to you who reigns over the gods oh Amon, Lord of the Two Lands, for you are Re who appears in the sky, who illuminates the earth with a brilliantly shining eye, who came out of the Nou, who appeared above the primitive water, who created everything, who generated the great Enneade of the gods, who created his own flesh and gave birth to his own form."

The king?s overseer of the land of Nubia was a certain Mermose (spelled both Mermose and Merymose on his sarcophagus in the British Museum). According to modern historians, in Amenhotep?s third year as king, Mermose took his army far up the Nile, supposedly to quell a minor rebellion, but actually to secure gold mining territories which would supply his king with the greatest wealth of any ruler of Egypt.

Recent scholarship has indicated Mermose took his army to the neighbourhood of the confluence of the Nile and Atbara Rivers and beyond.

But who was this Mermose? According to historian Dawn Breasted, the Greek translation of this name was Moses. Does Jewish tradition support this identification?

According to Jewish history not included in the Bible, Moses led the army of Pharaoh to the South, into the land of Kush, and reached the vicinity of the Atbara River. There he attracted the love of the princess of the fortress city of Saba, later Meroe. She gave up the city in exchange for marriage. Biblical confirmation of such a marriage is to be found in Numbers 12:1. "And Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses because of the Ethiopian woman whom he had married: for he had married an Ethiopian woman."

The end of Akhenaten?s reign is shrouded in mystery, scholarship about which is beyond the scope of an article of this length. In summary, however, theories span from the death of Nefertiti from plague - Akhenaten?s own death from plague or murder - to exile.

On clear record, in contrast, is the return of Egypt to the Enead of the gods and a systematic attempt to erase all vestiges of Akhenaton and his cult in Egypt.

Meanwhile, the expelled Hyksos, according to various historians, have been living in Canaan.

It is here that a solution to the Biblical dating problem of linking the Israelites to the Hyksos appears.

Using the dating of the Biblical Exodus and comparing it to the Egyptian dating of the Hyksos expulsion throws up a gap of about 400 years. Using the dating systems of the books of Judges and Samuel, this gap can extend to between 554 and 612 years.

However, there is clear historical record of post Hyksos Egypt extending its empire into Canaan, the land into which the Hebrews entered and lived, according to Biblical sources, for 400 years before establishing the kingdom of Solomon.

The Hebrews living in Canaan were therefore under Egyptian rule. It is also here in Canaan that we can make a comparison between Yahweh and the Canaanite Moloch (Baal) and extrapolate a polemic inversion of the story of Pharaoh ordering the death of all the "first born" in Exodus.

The worshippers of Moloch sacrificed their first born children to their deity through immolation. Worshippers of Yahweh in Canaan were also known to carry out child sacrifice on occasion, especially in times of hardship, although immolation (holocaust) was supposedly frowned upon. Slitting the child?s throat, however, was acceptable.

The sacrifices were carried out and the remains interred at sacred sites known at Topheth. Sometimes - although rarely, judging by the vast predominance of infant human bones found at Topheth sites by archaeologists - animals were sacrificed as substitutes.

The Unification

Modern historical disciplines studying the biblical era uniformly conclude that Exodus could not have been written earlier than the 7th century BCE, and certainly not by the Biblical Moses who at best is a fictional combination of Egyptian personalities.

In Israel itself, 7th Century BCE is the period in which the archaeological evidence presented by Herzog suggests the emergence of Jerusalem as a cultural centre occurs.

By all accounts, it is a cultural centre struggling to find an identity and nationality for itself and, given the discovery of the Jewish texts displaying Yahweh having a consort in the form of Asherah, it is not difficult to piece this jigsaw together.

In 639BCE, Josiah, king of Judah, is known to have introduced wide-ranging religious reforms and brought additional areas of "Israel" under his control.

It is during this period that "polemics" against and "inversion" of a wide variety of religious and cultural sources are brought together to form a religious and political unity.

For Josiah?s "inquisitors", where history is unheroic, such as the expulsion from Egypt in the form of the Hyksos, history is inverted. Where religion is bereft of moral unity, the cult of Aten is interweaved, satisfying existing belief systems within the region and bestowing upon the king, Josiah, the position of divine right through a lineage to Solomon and David - both replacements for Aten?s ancestors and his temple-building reputation. Josiah also destroys the Topheth Temple said to have been built by Solomon in the Hinnon valley just outside Jerusalem, to the south.

Within this unifying mechanism, there are obfuscations to mitigate existing belief systems, which require the true name of God to be kept secret, and for which there is precedence in the cults of Baal and ISH-KUR, all part of the mish-mash of the region, and all designed to plaster over the holes in the new Yahweh-based system. An important separation of the identities of Baal-Moloch-Yahweh is implemented, although the evolution of ISH-KUR to Hadad to Baal to Yahweh does not remain disguised owing to the later polemic against Babylon written up as Genesis.

Well known in Egypt, including at the time of the Aten cult was the following passage from the Book of the Dead:

I have not robbed.
I have not coveted.
I have not killed people.
I have not told lies.
I have not trespassed.
I have not committed adultery.
I have not cursed a god.

Josiah?s unification process takes Moses, an Ideogram combining the Ahmose who expelled the Hyksos, and the Mermose who led the Egyptian army to great victories, and credits him with receiving the Ten Commandments in tablets of stone. In reality these laws are an elaboration of the above declaration.

Add to this the fact that the obscure Egyptian king?s "Hymn to Aten" is almost "word for word" Psalm 104 in the Bible and we have another compelling "coincidence".

These and other "coincidences" apparently convinced the renowned Psychologist Sigmund Freud, writing in his 1939 book "Moses and Monotheism", that the Jewish monotheistic faith had its roots in the Akhenaton cult religion.

Josiah?s unification should of course be applauded. It outlawed the Moloch cult and emphasised the spiritual morality of the Ten Commandments. The polemics and inversions adding a heroic slant to the history of his people are understandable and politically astute.

But beginning c. 200CE, somewhere along the line, and unlike the Aten cult, supremacy of race is added to the Jewish faith.

In summary, however, it is Herzog?s discovery of Yahweh?s consort Asherah in Jewish texts and his declaration of an archaeological absence of Solomon or David that is the scalpel with which to slice through all the fictions of the biblical Exodus and its suggestion of divine right and supremacy. For that reason, Herzog must not be forgotten.

Even though his scholarship is ignored by the politics of modern day Israel, it contains a lesson for the rest of the world, and in particular for those nations who support Israel?s supremacist doctrines.

Israel, modern, needs to face up to the fact that it has no "divine right" to the land it occupies. Israel must rely instead upon an equitable settlement in light of its undeniable modern day colonisation and conquest - a reality its opponents must accept but without straying outside the boundaries defined by international law - i.e. the 1967 borders.

It is a realist position, which most modern day western civilisations have come to terms with without claiming divine right or racial supremacy. They have accomplished this by recognition of human rights and an international standard of law limiting their behaviour (in most cases), reserving instead to a faith in the democratic institutions upon which their modernity and equitability is based.

Given the religious and cultural battleground upon which Israel is placed, its absence of recognition of modern reality, and in a world armed with nuclear weapons, until Israel - armed with those weapons - separates itself from doctrines of "divine right" and "racial supremacy", it will continue to be the breeding ground for a fight against racial and political injustice - at the centre of the modern-day world?s geo-political processes - which could bring our entire global civilisation to destruction.

That surely, in the name of humanity, is reason enough to bring to an end such "biblical" fixations and dogmatism. It does not require us to abandon faith in God in order to do that. Our intuition of The Creator is as old as humanity and is not dependent upon a dusty old tome written by men and in the words of men.



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Did "David and Solomon" existed or not. 

As I was reading thru I found it is "he was, he was not."
Next time we will read Muhammed did not exist.

Oh well tell it to moslims because they accept Torah as is. 

And also they accept Moses. "And before it the Book of Musa (Moses) (Torah) was a guide and a mercy:"
The Gospel of Jesus and Old Testament (Torah): "Guidance and Light"

- Sura 2:87 - And most certainly We gave Musa the Book and We sent apostles after him one after another; and We gave Isa, the son of Marium, clear arguments and strengthened him with the holy spirit,

- Sura 3:48 - And He (Isa/Jesus) will teach him the Book and the wisdom and the Tavrat (Torah) and the Injeel (Christian Gospel).

- Sura 3:50 - And a verifier of that which is before me of the Taurat (Torah) and that I may allow you part of that which has been forbidden t you, and I have come to you with a sign from your Lord therefore be careful of (your duty to) Allah and obey me.

- Sura 5:44 - "Surely We revealed the Taurat (Torah/Bible Old Testament) in which was guidance and light", with it the prophets who submitted themselves....

- Sura 5:46 - And We sent after them in their footsteps Isa, son of Marium, verifying what was before him of the Taurat (Jewish Torah) and We gave him the Injeel (Christian Gospels) in which was guidance and light, and verifying what was before it of Taurat and a guidance and an admonition for those who guard (against evil).

- Sura 5.68 - Say: O followers of the Book! you follow no good till you keep up the Taurat and the Injeel and that which is revealed to you from your Lord;

- Sura 6.154: Again, We gave the Book (Torah) to Musa to complete (Our blessings) on him who would do good (to others), and making plain all things and a guidance and a mercy, so that they should believe in the meeting of their Lord.

- Sura 6.155: And this (Torah) is a Book We have revealed, blessed; therefore follow it and guard (against evil) that mercy may be shown to you.

- Sura 29:46 "And dispute ye not with the People of the Book, but say, "We believe in the revelation which has come down to us and in that which came down to you; Our Allah and your Allah is one;

- Sura 32:23 - And certainly We gave the Book to Musa, so be not in doubt concerning the receiving of it, and We made it a guide for the children of Israel.

- Sura 43:63 - When Jesus came with Clear Signs, he said: "Now have I come to you with Wisdom, and in order to make clear to you some of the (points) on which ye dispute: therefore fear Allah and obey me.

- Sura 46:12 we are told.... "And before it the Book of Musa (Moses) (Torah) was a guide and a mercy: and this is a Book verifying (it) in the Arabic language that it may warn those who are unjust and as good news for the doers of good......"



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The Problem of Israel's Origins

(NOTE: This is a draft version of Chapter One of The Moses Mystery and due to the publisher's subsequent copyediting and minor revisions this text may vary slightly from the published version.)

Who were the earliest Israelites? Where did they come from and under what circumstances did they rise to power in Canaan? These questions, which bear on the intellectual origins of western civilization, engage the finest minds in biblical studies, but the answers, like Tantalus's fruit, remain just out of reach.

The bible tells us that the Hebrew nation originated with Abraham, in Mesopotamia, Ur of the Chaldees to be specific. From Ur, he and his family traveled to Haran,and from there to Canaan, where God promised him that his descendants would rule over the land. This covenant passed on to his son Isaac, and then to Isaac's son Jacob (later called Israel.) Jacob had twelve sons, and one of them, Joseph, became Prime Minister of Egypt. At Joseph's invitation Jacob and his family, less than seventy males in all, left Canaan and moved to Egypt. At first, they were warmly received, but as their number rapidly swelled the good will turned to fear and anger.Israel soon found itself condemned to forced labor. Eventually, a hero named Moses arose from the enslaved ranks, and challenged the mighty Pharaoh to a duel of gods. Egypt's multitude of false idols were no match for the one true god of Moses, and the Israelite hero triumphantly led his people out of that country and towards the promised land of Canaan. Just forty years later, the Israelites marched into their new homeland and, by force of arms, imposed their territorial claims on the native population.

Unfortunately, there is not a shred of evidence outside the bible to corroborate these claims.

What Scholars Believe

Currently, biblical scholars recognize three possible scenarios explaining Israel's rise to power in Canaan: 1) the "conquest" theory: that Israel came in from the outside and conquered the land; 2) the "peaceful settlement" theory: in which it is argued that Israelites entered gradually, settling in the sparsely populated areas of the central highlands; and 3) the "peasant revolt" or "social revolution" theory: that Canaanites rose up against their overlords.

Despite this wide range of disagreement, there are certain related matters, consistent with the biblical account, upon which there is virtual unanimity. The consensus holds that prior to the Hebrew monarchy, Israel was bound together in a confederation of Semitic tribes. This political arrangement supposedly evolved over several centuries from associations of Semite-speaking groups of pastoral nomads. Scholars also believe that before Israel became a power in Canaan at least some portion of the Hebrew population (if not all) journeyed into Egypt and lived there under hostile circumstances. Additionally, historians accept that the crucial stages occurred in the twelfth or eleventh century BC, when hundreds of new settlements were founded in the hill country of central Canaan (although there is no specific evidence connecting any of these settlements to Israel.) But certain questions persist.

Where is the Evidence?

How do we know, independent of the bible, that Israel's presence in Egypt was preceded by an earlier presence in Palestine? Why is there no archaeological record of Israel or the Hebrew people prior to the thirteenth century BC? Why is there no extra-biblical evidence linking any specific Semitic tribes to the Hebrew people? And, why did the so-called "ten lost tribes" disappear from history without an archaeological trace of their prior existence?

For Israel's history before the thirteenth century we have only the biblical account, but that account rests upon a shaky foundation. Modern scholars now recognize that the early books of the bible weren't fully edited until after the seventh century BC, and perhaps centuries later. (There is no extant portion of biblical text dated earlier than the third century BC.) The final version attempted to weave a seamless narrative out of a diverse collection of contradictory historical claims that reflected clashing political philosophies and opposing religious doctrines. The resulting compilation indicates numerous compromises with the truth.

Even if we assume that the bible derives from earlier sources yet to be discovered, it still describes events that occurred more than a thousand years before its completion. In those ancient times few peoples had a strong tradition of historical writing and perspective. Much of what passed for history consisted of myth, legend, and rumor, elements of which are pervasive throughout the biblical text. (Herodotus, widely considered the father of historical writing, dates to the fifth century BC—approximately the same time that the early books of the bible were edited into their final form—and draws substantially on myths and rumors for much of what he records.) Though several nations had written records in the second, third and fourth millennia from which modern historians can draw conclusions, there is no evidence that Israel was among them.

Quite simply, where a group of people lived in the sixth century BC, and what language it spoke, and what it believed about its historical roots a thousand years earlier, does not, absent independent corroboration, prove where it lived a thousand years earlier, what language it originally spoke, and what took place in its formative years. Certainly, little in the biblical text would be outside the knowledge of learned Hebrew scribes in the sixth century BC. Furthermore, the many anachronistic phrases in the early books of the bible point to a very late editing. This is not to say that in this later time the Hebrews did not speak a Semitic language or strongly identify with Semitic culture. We just do not know that this was always so.

A New Model for Israel's Origins

In this book I offer a radical new solution to the puzzle of Israel's origins, one that places its earliest roots in fourteenth century Egypt during the reign of the monotheistic Pharaoh Akhenaten. I call this the "Atenist" theory, after the unique deity that he worshipped. It holds that the refugees departing Egypt during what later became known as the Exodus were native Egyptians, devoted followers of the pharaoh Akhenaten.

This king's monotheistic religious reforms triggered massive resentment throughout the country. Less than two decades after Akhenaten’s death Pharaoh Horemheb launched an aggressive counter-revolution aimed at suppressing all memory of the hated predecessor. Akhenaten's loyal followers suffered greatly. They were removed from office, stripped of honor and property, and in many instances banished from the country. These persecuted Egyptians united together, rose in rebellion and formed the House of Israel.


The pharaoh Akhenaten, ninth king of the Eighteenth Dynasty ruled Egypt for seventeen years in the middle of the fourteenth century. A monotheist, militantly devoted to the worship of Re-Herakhty, the sun-god whom he believed manifest in the form of Aten, the solar disc, his revolutionary religious doctrine allowed for no competition. Especially offensive to him was the worship of Amen, chief deity of Thebes and widely celebrated as the king of the gods. So strong was his animosity that in an act of theological intolerance never before experienced in that nation's millennia-long history, he dispatched agents throughout the land to shut down the god's temples and excise the offensive name from walls, tombs, statues, and inscriptions.

Another target of the king's wrath was the popular god Osiris, Judge of the Afterlife. Under Akhenaten, the Osirian funerary practices so central to the Egyptian way of life were purged of all polytheistic symbolism. After Year 5 of his reign, the plural form for "god" no longer appeared in any writing of that time. In keeping with his proscription against graven images, the scribes substituted phonetic spelling for those anthropomorphic and theriomorphic signs used in script.

Akhenaten's monotheism did not take root and Egypt did not remember him kindly. In fact, they did not remember him at all. Pharaoh Horemheb systematically destroyed all public evidence of the heretic's existence. Workers chiseled out Akhenaten’s identifying hieroglyphs wherever they were found. They demolished his newly built capital city and quarried the stones for new building projects in other parts of the country. They even omitted his name from the king-lists. He had become a nonperson, the nation doing all it could to forget he ever lived. Today, he is one of the best known of all pharaohs.

Modern Egyptologists learned of Akhenaten’s existence only in the late nineteenth century, when teams of archaeologists visited the ruins of an unidentified city in an area now known as Amarna. These remains were what were left of the king's demolished capital city. On some of the walls, portrayed in an artistic style considered an unusual departure from traditional Egyptian portraiture, they found the deformed image of an unknown pharaoh and his beautiful queen. The hieroglyphs indicated that this strange monarch was named Akhenaten, a pharaoh of whom they had no prior knowledge.

Continued exploration of this city produced a number of informative discoveries. These included the famous Amarna letters, stone tablets containing vivid reports of the turbulent state of foreign relations in the time of both Akhenaten and his father, Amenhotep III. In other Egyptian cities excavators discovered not only other structures attributed to this reign but also many of the stones transported from Akhenaten’s capital city, some with fragments of revealing text. Before long, a sketchy profile of this monotheistic revolutionary took shape.

At first, his reputation soared. Historians hailed him as "the first individual," a religious reformer, a great thinker, witness to the truth, a magnificent poet, an artistic revolutionary, even the forerunner to Moses. But, even the most aggressive advocates of a link between Moses and Akhenaten still adhered to the Semitic model ofIsrael's roots.

Sigmund Freud, in Moses and Monotheism, argued that Moses was an Egyptian noble who followed the Atenist beliefs of the heretic pharaoh. He even identified Aten with Adonai, a name Hebrews use for God. On the issue of the Hebrew people, however, he could only speculate as to how Moses came to be the leader of Semitic tribes. He suggested that Moses must have served as an Egyptian governor who became sympathetic to the Hebrew plight.

Thomas Mann, in his novel Joseph the Provider, reflected much of the speculation in the early years of Akhenaten's discovery. He made Akhenaten the pharaoh who elevated Joseph to the position of Prime Minister of Egypt. In all other respects, though, he adopted the traditional biblical account.

In recent years Akhenaten's luster has worn thin. Today, Egyptologists dismiss him as a voluptuary, an intellectual lightweight, an atheist, ultimately a maniac. They sharply reject any connection between Akhenaten and Moses. Summing up the view of most Egyptologists, Donald B. Redford, Director of the Akhenaten Temple Project and one of the chief students of the Amarna Age (as Akhenaten's reign is known), writes: "A vast gulf is fixed between the rigid, coercive, rarified monotheism of the pharaoh and Hebrew henotheism; which in any case we see through the distorted prism of texts written 700 years after Akhenaten's death" One historian after another, when reciting the history of Akhenaten's monotheism, adds similar disclaimers.

This sentiment, so widely endorsed, raises, at least to me, a question. If the view we have of early Hebrew religion is distorted through the prism of texts written seven hundred years after the death of Akhenaten (i.e., the bible, which received its present written form no earlier than the sixth century BC) how can it easily be concluded that the original religious views of Moses were any less a rigid, coercive, rarefied monotheism than that of Akhenaten's?


The pharaoh responsible for waging the campaign against Akhenaten's memory was Horemheb, who came to the throne about fourteen years after Akhenaten's death. He demolished Akhenaten’s buildings, erased the heretic's name from monuments and persecuted the remnant of Akhenaten's following. Those holding any form of public office or important position were denounced as corrupt and ineffective. He removed them from office, punished many of them and, in some cases, banished them from Egypt. The destruction of Akhenaten's capital city must have displaced tens of thousands of inhabitants, many of them priests, soldiers, and members of aristocratic families.

Horemheb had no royal blood. A popular general, he came to the throne when the royal bloodline ended. He also left no blood heirs. In the year before he died, he appointed RamessesÊI, another military figure, as his coregent. Ramesses outlived Horemheb by less than three years and during his brief reign he appointed his son, Sethos I, as coregent. Egyptologists mark the death of Horemheb as the dividing line between the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Dynasties of Egypt.


In this book I will argue that Moses was the chief priest of the Aten cult and that at the time of Akhenaten's death Moses fled from Egypt to avoid execution. Upon Horemheb's death he returned to Egypt and attempted a military coup, the purpose of which was to restore the Aten cult to the throne. His allies included the persecuted remnant of Akhenaten's following, large numbers of badly treated sick and diseased Egyptians, assorted opponents of Ramesses I, and an army belonging to the Canaanite kingdom of Shechem, whose rulers were openly hostile to Egypt's demands for submission.

Moses' actions brought the nation to the brink of civil war. The confrontation ended with a negotiated truce that guaranteed the insurgent army safe passage out of the country. This negotiated truce and safe passage out of Egypt was the Exodus.

As the centuries passed, like most immigrant groups, the refugees identified increasingly with the language, culture, and traditions of their new neighbors. At the same time they lost touch with their own roots. As the biblical authors wrote repeatedly, Canaanite culture had a powerful pull on the Israelites and they frequently succumbed to its enticements. Despite unrelenting apostasy, however, one truth remained with them. In Egypt they were oppressed and a god like no other delivered them from bondage.


This new model of Israel's origins has several corollaries. 1) Israel's appearance in Canaan occurred suddenly in the late fourteenth-early thirteenth century BC, and not after several centuries of evolution from tribes of Semite-speaking nomads; 2) the first Israelites spoke Egyptian and adhered to Egyptian cultural practices and beliefs; 3) no confederation of Semitic tribes preceded the Hebrew monarchy; and 4) the "ten lost tribes" disappeared not because of the Assyrian conquest but because they never existed.

Dating the Exodus

When did Israel leave Egypt and under what circumstances did it do so? These are the central questions that we must answer before the Atenist theory can be validated, but testimony is lacking. Outside the bible there is no evidence that the Exodus even occurred. It is only because of the fervency with which ancient Israelproclaimed such a demeaning origin that historians give any credit at all to the biblical account.

Within academic circles these questions provoke heated argument. There is nothing inherently implausible about dating the Exodus to just after the end of Horemheb's reign. Doing so, though, raises a host of problems for those who would deny a connection between Moses and Akhenaten, and most modern scholars do deny such a connection. Consequently, all popular solutions to the Exodus problem carefully place a chronological wall between these two innovative thinkers.

The Majority View

The majority view dates the Exodus to the middle of the reign of Ramesses II, at least seventy to eighty years after Akhenaten's death and outside the range acceptable for the "Atenist" model. In support of this position proponents argue that the Exodus must have occurred close in time to the onset of the previously mentioned Canaanite settlements in the twelfth and eleventh centuries BC.

In the previous century most scholars believed that the Exodus occurred sometime during the reign of Merneptah, successor to Ramesses II, but an archaeological find attributed to that pharaoh's reign (see below) necessitated that the Exodus precede him. Also in favor of Ramesses II being the pharaoh of the Exodus is that there were many years of peace in the latter part of his sixty-seven years of rule. Such a condition suggested a likely time frame in which to allow the Hebrews to wander in the wilderness without Egyptian retribution.


Perhaps the most important piece of evidence cited in favor of Ramesses II as the pharaoh of the Exodus is the biblical claim that when the Pharaoh ordered the enslavement of the Hebrew people he set them to work at the city of "Raamses". Scholars uniformly accept that the biblical city of "Raamses" corresponds to the Egyptian city of Pi-Ramesse, the royal residence of Ramesses II.

What makes Pi-Ramesse intriguing is that the city didn't receive that name until the reign of Ramesses II. Prior to that time it was known as Avaris, which had been the capital city and stronghold of the earlier Hyksos kings. Biblical scholars argue that if the Hebrews worked in the city of "Raamses" and that name first came into existence during the reign of Ramesses II, then the Exodus must have come no earlier than the reign of this pharaoh. Additionally, based on the Merneptah victory stele (see below) scholars recognize that the Exodus had to occur prior to the reign of Pharaoh Merneptah, the immediate successor to Ramesses II. Such a sequence of events, say the scholars, indicates that the Exodus could only have happened in the reign of Ramesses II.

That argument has a number of flaws. First, according to the bible, the pharaoh who set the Hebrews to work on "Raamses" could not have been the pharaoh of the Exodus. His actions occurred before the birth of Moses. The Exodus occurred in Moses' eightieth year. Ramesses II only ruled for 67 years. His reign wasn't long enough to encompass both the birth of Moses and the Exodus.

Second, again according to the bible, while Moses was in exile from Egypt, the pharaoh on the throne died and a new pharaoh came to power. This new pharaoh was the pharaoh of the Exodus. So if Ramesses II had to be on the throne for the work order at "Raamses" then one of his successors had to be the pharaoh of the Exodus. But, because of the aforementioned problem with the Merneptah victory stele an Exodus in the reign of a successor to Ramesses II has been almost universally rejected.

Third and most important, the bible connects the city of "Raamses" with Joseph, who placed his father and his brethren, and gave them a possession in the land ofEgypt, in the best of the land, in the land of Rameses, as Pharaoh had commanded.

Following the logic of the biblical scholars, Joseph would have had to have lived in the reign of Ramesses II. Since the pharaoh of the enslavement acted after Joseph died both the pharaoh of the enslavement and the pharaoh of the Exodus would have to have been successors to Ramesses II, even more objectionable.

What these conflicts show is that the author of the biblical passages referring to "Raamses" wrote at a time when the city of Avaris had become known by the name Pi-Ramesse. This could have been anytime after the reign of Ramesses II. The events described as happening there could have occurred before the name change in the reign of Ramesses II but the author could have substituted the name he knew at the time for the original name of Avaris. Later, when we consider Egyptian accounts of the Exodus we will see that the Egyptian historians placed the people involved in the Exodus in the city of Avaris rather than Pi-Ramesse.

Other Objections to Ramesses II

Against the idea of placing the Exodus in the reign of Ramesses II, critics note that Ramesses II was a strong military leader who had a significant presence inPalestine. (He engaged the powerful Hittites in a major military battle as far north as Syria.) How could Israel have successfully resisted such a powerful emperor and there be no record of the confrontation? Even if the Egyptians had suffered some sort of military defeat, we know from historical records that the Egyptians were not averse to lying about what occurred and claiming victory. "An expulsion of alien forces" is how the Egyptians might have put it, if the Israelites were a non-Egyptian people.

For the Hebrews to have avoided an Egyptian reprisal so soon after the Exodus would have required a much weaker Egypt. Such a situation was evident in the reign of Horemheb, whose final days on the throne preceded Ramesses II by less than fifteen years. Under his predecessors, beginning with Akhenaten about a quarter of a century earlier, Egyptian hegemony in Canaan and Syria had been severely eroded by the expanding influence of the Hittites and the rebelliousness of many subject kings. Little is known about Horemheb's activities in foreign policy, but no evidence indicates that he significantly reinstated Egyptian authority. Furthermore, other evidence suggests that he abandoned a series of Palestinian fortresses, indicating a weak Egyptian presence during his reign.

Interestingly, if the Exodus represented a rebellion by the remnants of Akhenaten's following, it would explain why there are no public Egyptian records of the confrontation between the two sides. The pharaohs meant to wipe out any record of Akhenaten's existence. To memorialize any such confrontation in public displays, even those claiming victory over the heretic, would only help perpetuate memories of the hated king. This does not mean that private reports or disguised accounts didn't exist, and in later chapters we will examine evidence of what these other records had to say about this affair.




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Minority Views

There are also some strong minority opinions about the date of the Exodus, all of which place it well before the reign of Akhenaten. One such theory, partially based on powerful volcanic eruptions in nearby Crete, dates the Exodus to about 1450. These powerful explosions, some scholars suggest, caused the parting of the sea and the pillars of fire and smoke described in the biblical account. Until recently, most archaeologists thought this eruption took place around 1450, but new evidence now indicates that they took place about 1645 BC, well before any acceptable date for the Exodus.

The year 1450 is also troublesome for other reasons. Egypt was then at the height of its power, its authority extending deep into Syria and lasting almost another hundred years. It is hard to believe that a rebel nation could successfully resist Egypt's superior military resources, or that records of the time, in Egypt and elsewhere, would omit any mention of such a notable achievement.

Another theory, once widely held but now much less so, holds that the Exodus corresponded to the expulsion of the Hyksos kings at the start of the Eighteenth Dynasty, a date in the mid sixteenth century BC. The Hyksos were Asian chieftains, probably of Semitic background, who, between the eighteenth and sixteenth centuries, ruled considerable portions of Egyptian territory. Josephus, the Jewish historian of the first century AD, was the first to identify the expulsion of the Hyksos with the Exodus and for much of later history his argument was influential. The problem with such an early date, though, is that it creates a post-Exodus period of over three hundred years in which Israel does not appear in the historical record.

Contradictory Biblical Evidence

Dating the Exodus is problematic because evidence of its occurrence appears exclusively in the bible, and what little it tells is contradictory. Exodus 12:40-41, for example, places the Exodus 430 years after the start of Israel's sojourn in Egypt (i.e., from Jacob's arrival) whereas Genesis 15:13-14 indicates that four hundred years transpired from the birth of Isaac to the end of the bondage. Both claims can not be true. Jacob was born in Isaac's sixtieth year. He didn't arrive in Egypt until his one hundred and thirtieth year. If the sojourn lasted 430 years, then the Exodus would have to have occurred 620 years after Isaac's birth. On the other hand, if the Exodus occurred 400 years after Isaac was born, then the sojourn could only have been 210 years long. Other biblical passages raise additional problems.

Even if we favored one biblical claim against another, what historical event would permit us to anchor that claim to a specific date? There is the assertion in 1 Kings 6:1 that the Exodus occurred 480 years before Solomon started work on the temple. This is somewhat corroborated by Judges 11:26, which suggests that Jephthah judged Israel three hundred years after the Exodus. Since historians date Solomon's ascension to c.970-950, that claim would yield a potential Exodus date of 1450-1430.

However, because of the aforementioned problems with such a date, most scholars maintain that the expression "480 years" derives from a misunderstanding. According to this view, the biblical author meant to describe twelve generations of Israelites (since 1 Chronicles 6 shows twelve generations from the Exodus to Solomon) and assigned forty years to each generation. But, the argument continues, forty years are too many for a generation. A more realistic twenty-five years, say proponents of this argument, would make a better fit, giving a total span of three hundred years. Such a procedure would date the Exodus to 1270-1250, during the reign of Ramesses II, right where the majority would like it.

That there is no reference to a generation lasting forty years, twenty-five years, or any other number of years, does not dissuade proponents of this surgical reconstruction. Nor can we find any convincing proof that the biblical author meant "twelve generations" instead of "480 years." In fact, the number of years assigned to a generation is wholly arbitrary. In this case, scholars chose "twenty-five years" because it conveniently places the Exodus exactly where the majority would have it.

This solution also ignores another problem. There is no extrabiblical evidence that David, Solomon, or the vast and glorious empire over which they ruled ever existed. That a Hebrew nation existed cannot be denied, and most certainly it had a king. The name "Solomon", however, is simply an adopted title meaning "peaceable." It could be a title adopted by many Hebrew kings.

If a King Solomon ever had such an extensive kingdom as described in the bible, it seems to have escaped the notice of both its subjects and its neighbors—the Phoenicians, Egyptians, Assyrians, Babylonians, Amorites, Canaanites, Edomites, Moabites. All of these nations, so far, remain mute on the subject of this Hebrew kingdom. History contains many rumors about mighty kingdoms that never existed, but rarely does one never hear of a great kingdom that did exist. Such an ephemeral kingdom can not serve as an anchor for biblical dating.

Additionally, the date proposed by scholars for Solomon's reign conflicts with biblical chronology. As commentators have noted, if you add up the length of reign for each of Solomon's successors as king of Judea, the total time from the year he began building the temple to the destruction of the temple is 430 years. Since independent sources permit us to date the destruction of the temple to 587 BC, the biblical account would require that Solomon's initial building program begin in 1017, about sixty years earlier than scholars would allow.

In opposition to this earlier date, historians argue that the 430 years from the beginning of the temple to the destruction of the temple is the same duration as the Hebrew sojourn in Egypt, and that the numbers have been juggled to create a parallel history in post-Exodus times. This may be a legitimate attack on the post-Exodus chronology, but it simply cuts Solomon loose from any chronological anchor. Since we can't accurately date the start of Solomon's reign, we can't use that event in order to date the Exodus.

The Earliest Archaeological Evidence for Israel

The Merneptah Stele

Although history does not tell us of the Exodus, it does supply some help in setting the latest possible date. The earliest nonbiblical reference to the name Israelappears on an Egyptian stele dating to the latter half of the thirteenth century BC, about 100-125 years after Akhenaten's death. It is unique in that Egypt never used the name again. One has to skip forward almost four hundred years, completely bypassing the reigns of David and Solomon, before its next appearance outside the bible.

Commemorating Pharaoh Merneptah's victory over the combined forces of Libya and the Sea Peoples, the monument preserves an effusive hymn full of national joy and enemy disgrace. Tucked away near the very end, is this poem:

The princes are prostrate, saying: "Mercy!"

Not one raises his head among the Nine Bows.

Desolation is for Tehenu; Hatti is pacified;

Plundered is the Canaan with every evil;

Carried off is Ashkelon; seized upon is Gezer;

Yanoam is made as that which does not exist;

Israel is laid waste, his seed is not;

Hurru is become a widow for Egypt!

All lands together, they are pacified;

Everyone who was restless, he has been bound.

The conquests claimed have no connection to the Libyan war. They depict no historical truth. Their inclusion serves only as a poetic attempt to portray Merneptah as a grand warrior.

A curious feature of this inscription is that Israel is the only name with a grammatical determinative signifying people instead of land. The grammar suggests to almost all biblical scholars that we have here a picture of ancient Israel in its post-Exodus pre-Conquest stage.

This discovery caused quite a shock to the academic world of 1896, the year in which the monument was discovered. At that time most biblical and Egyptological scholars identified Merneptah as the pharaoh of the Exodus. On this new evidence historians had to date the event to an earlier time. But when?

If the Exodus happened not much earlier than the start of Ramesses II, then Moses and Akhenaten would become childhood pals, educated together and receiving their religious training in the great Egyptian temple of Annu (the Greek Heliopolis, the biblical On). If scholars wanted to separate these two revolutionaries, and they did, they had to date the Exodus either late in the reign of Ramesses II or set it at least two centuries earlier.

The Merneptah inscription also lends support to my claim that Israel emerged suddenly in the fourteenth century BC, as opposed to the current view that Israelevolved over several centuries from nomadic tribes of Semite-speaking peoples. Prior to this inscription, no record exists of either Israel or any of the tribes that made up the Israelite tribal confederation. Where did this Israel come from? What territory did it occupy? Why doesn't it have any history before this point? The absence of answers suggests that this Israel was a newcomer to the political scene?

The inscription does not tell us what language Israel spoke but it does imply that Israel, despite its lack of identification with a specific territory, stood as a powerful military force. The text places it among several major political entities. (Hatti is the Hittite kingdom, Hurru is the Hurrian kingdom, Ashkelon and Gezer are two of the most substantial city-states in Canaan.) The context suggests that it wouldn't have been listed if it weren't thought to have been worthy of mention as a defeated force. Its presence as a large powerful force without a territory of its own suggests that this Israel came from somewhere else.

It should not have arrived there much earlier than the middle of the reign of Ramesses II. Otherwise it would have likely been identified with the territory where it was found. This suggests a time frame for its arrival within forty years of the death of Horemheb. That time frame would be consistent with both the biblical claim that it was about forty years after the Exodus that Israel entered Canaan and the Atenist theory that holds that the Exodus occurred shortly after the death of Horemheb.

It is also interesting that the very first mention of the name Israel occurs in Egyptian writing. That name does not appear again in the historical record for almost four hundred years afterward.

The evidence, then, suggests that at a time consistent with both biblical chronology and the "Atenist" model, Israel, previously unknown in the historical record, suddenly appeared in Canaan or in its neighboring territories with a powerful military force. What we do not have is evidence that this Israel, at that time, was a Semite-speaking people or ever inhabited Asia prior to its departure from Egypt.


Concerning this last point, some comments about certain archaeological finds are in order. As early as the seventeenth century BC, Semite-speaking tribes and groups moved into the region of the Nile delta. It is these groups from which the Hyksos chieftains probably emerged and which formed the base of their subsequent political power.

Scarabs from this era show many of the chieftains with Semitic names, two of whom were Jacob-Her and Anat-Her. Linguists do not know what the her element stands for, but Anat is a well-known Palestinian goddess. Scholars are quick to see the name Jacob on the other scarab, speculating about its connection to the biblical Jacob. That the names are similar is true, but by analogy to the Anat-her inscription, Jacob could have been the name of a Palestinian god. At most, it only proves that the name Jacob existed in ancient times. No evidence connects this Jacob-her in any way to the biblical Jacob.


In these early times the archaeological records make frequent reference to a class of people known as Habiru or 'Apiru, many of whom were enslaved in Egypt. The term seems to be a classification or slang expression for mercenaries, servants and outlaws, a term of derogation often translated as "people of the dust." Many scholars see in Habiru a source for the name Hebrew and opinion shifts about on this from time to time. On the basis of complicated philological issues scholars generally reject the connection.

In any event, the Habiru were not an ethnic group. Studies of Habiru names show that they contained both Semitic and Indo-European elements. If Hebrew is derived from Habiru it would most certainly be a post-Exodus derivation, being used to describe the Israelites at a time when they were not yet settled in a territory and therefore exhibiting characteristics associated with the Habiru class. The name Hebrew, as a term for the Israelites, is not attested to until late in the first millennium.

The Patriarchal History

If ancient Israel originated in the aftermath of Akhenaten’s religious revolution, we must also account for the patriarchal history, the stories of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. These stories not only take place centuries before Akhenaten, they also place the Hebrew ancestors in Canaan, not Egypt. These accounts present vivid portraits of colorful characters. They exhibit wide ranges of emotion and personality, display virtues and flaws, describe many highly interesting activities and tell of exciting events. They seem to have few if any counterparts in Canaanite/Mesopotamian mythology.

Where do such fully developed histories come from? Does this vast amount of narrative detail suggest that the biblical authors drew upon folk histories of real characters? There is so much personality in these stories that many scholars find it hard to believe that these patriarchal families were made up out of whole cloth. One need not believe all the events occurred to be tempted by such a view.

Nevertheless, the patriarchal history is false. Consider, for example, this problem. The Book of Genesis ends with the death of Joseph. The story picks up in the Book of Exodus with the birth of Moses. This transition period encompasses several generations and, allegedly, several centuries. In this time Israel grew from a handful of people to over six hundred thousand males and their families. All we are told about this transition is that the Pharaoh feared Israel and reduced them to slavery in order to eliminate any threat.

It is precisely this gap in the history of Israel that is responsible for all the debates about the date of the Exodus. Why does the bible have such a detailed history ofIsrael's ancestors from Creation to the death of Joseph and such a detailed history of Israel from the birth of Moses to the end years of biblical history, and have such a minimalist description of what occurred in the centuries in between?

One feels compelled to ask: in the several hundred years during which Israel allegedly grew from a small family to a mighty kingdom to an enslaved nation, did nothing of interest happen? Were there no tales worth remembering, no accounts of heroism, no stories of inspiration, no tales of faith challenged and/or lost, no good or bad deeds of note?

Furthermore, at the end of the Patriarchal history, Jacob set the stage for massive conflict and intrigue in this period of missing history. He denied the birthright to his three oldest sons, accusing them of dastardly deeds. He appointed the tribe of Joseph, eleventh in sequence of birth, as his heir designate, but, to Joseph's dismay, the inheritance went to his younger son Ephraim rather than his oldest son Manasseh. And to top it all off, after giving the crown to Ephraim, Jacob then announced that the scepter shall not depart from Judah, his fourth oldest son. Who was supposed to rule Israel, Ephraim or Judah? How did these events affect the children of Israeland their descendants?

How did the sons and the families handle these decisions? Was there anger, joy, resistance, rebellion, acceptance? What went on in those centuries? Why should there a biblical dark ages in the eyes of the scribal redactors when everything else before and after is so clearly illuminated?

The answer is that what preceded the dark ages never existed. True biblical history begins with the Exodus and the patriarchal history is myth, pure and simple. And, in the some of the following chapters we shall set forth the exact mythological sources from which most of the patriarchal history derives.

By way of preview, however, let me briefly outline the argument. Patriarchal history draws upon Egyptian mythology. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and their key family members correspond to a family of popular Egyptian deities associated with the Egyptian god Osiris. Most of the events depicted in the patriarchal accounts come directly from Egyptian literary sources and themes, and we will examine the precise mythological incidents that gave rise to the biblical sources.

If this evidence is as obvious as I suggest, the reader may well be tempted to ask why biblical scholars and Egyptologists failed to uncover these connections. There are a number of reasons for such oversights.

When Israel came out of Egypt, its people brought with them the many stories about Egyptian gods and goddesses, stories that they believed to be true histories of their country. But, because the Israelites were militantly monotheistic, with a strong prejudice against the god Osiris, the deities were transformed into human ancestors. As with any immigrant group, after centuries of immersion in new cultures and surroundings, the settlers adopted the traditions and beliefs of their new neighbors, often integrating their old beliefs with the newly learned traditions. And as the biblical prophets make clear over and over, Canaanite culture exerted a mighty force over the Israelites.

The Egyptian deities, already transformed from gods to heroic human ancestors, came to look less and less like Egyptians and more and more like Canaanites. Atenist religious views melded with local traditions. Over the centuries numerous political and religious feuds developed. Old stories were retold in order to favor one group over another. Then came conquest and destruction. Most of Israel disappeared from history after the Assyrian conquests. Those remaining were captured byBabylon and force fed Babylonian culture and history. Shortly thereafter, the Hebrews were liberated from Babylon by the Persians and close cultural contact existed between these two nations.

In the morass of conflict Israel lost touch with its Egyptian roots. By the time modern scholars came to review the history, the long orthodox religious image of Israelas firmly rooted among Semitic tribes wandering in Canaan and Mesopotamia was fixed in the western mind. Biblical scholars saw no need to apply to Egypt the scholarly intensity of research reserved for the Semitic world. Israel was Canaanite. Biblical history was assumed true, at least in its outline. That the biblical scribes and redactors could have committed such a major error in location never entered the biblical mind.

The Twelve Tribes

Closely associated with the problem of the Patriarchal history is that of the Twelve Tribes. They also originate, biblically, in the pre-Egyptian period of Genesis, but their story carries forward from the patriarchal period to the post-Exodus period. However, no archaeological evidence demonstrates that this tribal coalition ever existed nor, given the alleged history of Israel in Egypt, should we have expected there to be.

Israel allegedly came into Egypt with just about seventy males. They lived, according to the bible, mostly in the small territorial area of Goshen. They left Egypt with over six hundred thousand males and their families.

It seems inconceivable that over this time, in a narrow territory, that such a large number of people could have maintained anything such as a tribal structure. Certainly by that time, intermarriage alone, which practice was common in biblical genealogy, would have obviously wiped out anything resembling clear linear family divisions. The biblical Israel emerging out of Egypt would have been divided along class, religious and political lines, not the artificial tribal structure that implies small isolated family clans. How does it happen, then, that this fictional tribal history spans both the mythological and historical portions of Israel's history?

Several factors influenced this development. As the evidence in the following chapters develops, we will see that the original idea of twelve tribes, or more specifically, twelve political entities, originated in Egyptian traditions. After leaving Egypt, other factors came into play.

At first the Egyptian emigrants dwelled peacefully in southern Jordan. Then they moved north into central Jordan and west into central Canaan, settling into what was then unoccupied territories. While the bible alleges that Israel conquered Canaan at this time (although elsewhere the bible casts doubt on this proposition), the territory was already in the throes of a military invasion by powerful outside forces known as the Sea Peoples. Mostly a coalition of Greek warriors seeking a new homeland, the invaders established themselves in several city-states along the Canaanite coast and in the north Canaan territories. Their aggressiveness led to several direct confrontations with the Egyptians, fighting with them on Egyptian territory. (One such engagement is described in the previously mentioned Merneptah stele.)

The most powerful and famous of these invaders was the Philistines and they soon threatened all of Canaan, including their former Greek allies settled into other city-states. In order to halt the Philistine advance, I propose that the Israelites formed a confederation with the other Sea Peoples states and local Canaanites and out of this confederation came a new nation of Israel.

At this time, I will argue, Judah did not yet exist. The Judaeans only entered the picture at the time of David, a Hebrew mercenary who worked with and was trained by the Philistine warlords. David used his newly learned military skills to form an effective military force and seized control of much of the territory belonging to the Israelite alliance. David declared himself king and established the House of Judah. It was in the time of David that many of the stories pitting Judah against Ephraim and other tribes came into being.

The Canaanite conquest served mostly as a Davidic myth to justify Judaean control over the alliance. It relied more on tales of the Sea Peoples invasion than it did on any Israelite actions. These conquest stories found there way into the biblical corpus, and several verses indicate that only Judah succeeded in conquering its designated territories. The other tribes allegedly floundered in their efforts, indicating that only Judah was justified in serving as head of the federation.

Outline of the Argument to be Presented

It is one thing to point out that there is no evidence corroborating the biblical account of Israel's early years. It is quite another to say that because of this lack of corroboration one can simply dismiss the biblical claims and substitute whatever theory one wants. After all, absent evidence to the contrary, it is possible that the broad outlines of the biblical history are correct. To argue that Moses and Akhenaten were theological comrades-in-arms and that the first Hebrews were Akhenaten's persecuted followers simply because it is theoretically possible does not make it so. Such coincidences provide no solid proof for challenging what almost all biblical scholars believe to be true. We need hard evidence, irrefutable arguments that prove the case. I provide that evidence in the following chapters.

Chapter Two examines the famous and puzzling birth-death chronology in Genesis 5 and 11. These passages, which provide a continuous chronological link between the births and deaths of twenty-three generations, beginning with Adam at the dawn of Creation and ending with the birth of Abraham in the early part of the second millennium BC, generate much controversy. Scholars casually dismiss this chronology as worthless but in later chapters we will show that this chronology provides a highly accurate record of Egyptian dynastic history.

Chapter Three provides the background material necessary to understand Egyptian chronology and the problems associated with establishing an accurate history of Egyptian dynasties and kings.

Chapters Four through Seven cross reference Genesis chronology with Egyptian dynastic history. The evidence shows that the Genesis birth/death dates derive from Egyptian king-lists and provide an exact one-to-one correlation with the starting dates for Egyptian dynasties and for several important Egyptian kings. The correlations begin with the foundation of the First Dynasty (c. 3,100 BC) and end with the start of the Eighteenth Dynasty over fifteen hundred years later. This chronological record enables us to place the mysterious events surrounding the Exodus in their proper historical context.

Chapter Eight reviews the various problems associated with dating the Exodus from biblical data. Then using the evidence of Genesis-Egyptian date correspondences it places the biblical data into chronological context and resolves the many contradictions. The analysis places the Exodus in 1315 BC, during the coregency of Ramesses I and Sethos I. Such a date means that Moses and Akhenaten were children together, raised and educated at the same time in the royal household of King Amenhotep III.

Chapter Nine provides an overview of historical matters associated with pharaoh Akhenaten, including the nature of his revolution, the deterioration of Egypt's foreign empire under his reign, and the counter-revolution undertaken by Horemheb.

Chapter Ten moves from the biblical accounts of the Exodus and looks at the event through Egyptian eyes, examining ancient Egyptian texts and the writings of other classical historians. The Egyptian materials parallel the biblical story in many areas but reverse the roles of Moses and the pharaoh, making Moses the cruel ruler and Pharaoh the young child who was hidden away and later returned to liberate his people. Reducing the parallel themes to their essential elements we learn how Egyptian mythological and literary motifs helped shape the biblical story of Moses. Placing the Egyptian and classical histories alongside the biblical accounts, we learn that upon Horemheb's death Moses launched a military campaign aimed at restoring the Atenists to the throne but that he failed in the effort and led his followers out of Egypt.

Chapters Eleven through Thirteen place the Patriarchal history in mythological perspective. The evidence shows how the early Israelites adapted Egyptian myths about the god Osiris and his family and transformed them into stories about distant human ancestors, removing them from the magical realm of Egyptian religion and placing them in the hands of the one and only god of Israel. The chapters trace most of the major events in the lives of the Hebrew Patriarchs and set forth many of the Egyptian myths and stories upon which the biblical accounts were based.

Chapter Fourteen examines the matter of the Twelve Tribes of Israel. There we find that even the biblical writers were unsure about how many tribes existed or whether or not they conquered Canaan. The evidence shows that the Exodus group originally included only the two Rachel tribes of Joseph and Benjamin and that at a later time the Rachel group united with remnants of the Greek Sea Peoples and other non-Hebrew Canaanites to form an alliance against Philistine encroachment. This new alliance became the House of Israel but it still did not include the Twelve Tribes. At least three alleged tribes, including Judah, Manasseh and Gad, and perhaps more did not yet exist at this time. We also examine some Egyptian stories that may have been responsible for the idea that Jacob had twelve sons and that these sons formed a political alliance.

Chapter Fifteen summarizes the evidence presented in the preceding chapters.

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