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Mount Gerizim and the Samaritans
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Mount Gerizim and the Samaritans

Mount Gerizim (Jabal al Tur in  Arabic, Tur Barakha in Aramic, means The blessed mountain)  is one of the highest peaks in the West Bank,
located  in Ephraim, and  rises to  886m above sea level. Together with Mount Ebal it forms the Vally of Nablus (Shechem). Mount Gerizim (‘ הרגריזים’ -Hargrizim -In one word as it is written in Samaritan texts)   is   the place where God has chosen for his divine presencethe  and is the most sacred place to the Samaritans. The last commandment, of the ten commandments, according to the Samaritan Version of the Torah, commands the people of Israel to  build an Altar on the mount, when they  enter the holy land:

” And when it so happens that LORD God brings you to the land of Caanan, which you are coming to posses, you shall set-up there for you great stones and plaster them with plaster and you write on the stones all words of this law. And it becomes for you that across the Jordan you shall raise these stones, which I command you today, in mountain Grizim. And you build there the altar to the LORD God of you. Altar of
stones. Not you shall wave on them iron. With whole stones you shall build the altar to LORD God of you. And you bring on it ascend offerings to LORD God of you, and you sacrifice peace offerings, and you eat there and you rejoice before the face of the LORD God of you. The mountain this is across the Jordan behind the way of the rising of the sun, in the land of Caanan who is dwelling in the desert before the Galgal, beside Alvin-Mara, before Sechem.” (Exodus 20:18 – According to the Samaritan Pentateuch=SP)”

 The Samaritans adhere in Mount Gerizim, and it is one of their five principles of faith,as it reflected in each prayer:

“And Mount Gerizim all the days of out lives”

  Since 1987 , when the first Intifada flared in the city of Nablus, and led to the burning of several houses of the  Samaritan neighborhood in the city, the Samaritans leaved the neighborhood in the city, and moved permanently to live in thier houses on mount Gerizim. Since then, about half of the Samaritan community live in the modern Samaritan village –  Qiryat Luza ,on the top of Mount . The Samaritan houses of the Samaritan neighborhood in Nablus, were rented to other non- Samaritan families,from the residents of the city. The Synagogue, was closed. In 1995, after a robbery which was carried out in the synagogue, and in which  two ancient Torah scrolls, were taken and  have not yet been found, all the ancient Samaritan scrolls were moved to the Samaritan synagogue, on the top of the mount.

  The second half of the community, who live in Holon, near Tel-aviv, have also thier own homes ,which they visit in Passover, Shavuot and  other events throughout the year.Read more about the Samaritan pilgrimage.

  The Samaritans still  observe the three pilgrimages of the year, according to the commandment of the Torah:  Passover Shavuot and Succot. The pilgrimage, is to the Sacred sites, on the summit of the mount: The Twelve stones of Joshua, The Altar of Issac, The Altar of Adam, The Altar of seth, and the most important spot to the Samaritan community – Givat Olam (  (‘Eternal Hill’ or ‘Hill of the World’.). Read more below about these sites.

Mount Gerizim vs Jerusalem

  The belief of the Samaritans in Mount Gerizim is cardinal tenet, to  The schism between Samaritans and Jews. The  debate between these two communities, around the issue of Mount Gerizim and the chosen place,  reflected in the primary difference,  made by Jews to the holy pentateuch. The Jewish version of the Torah, lacks the tenth commandment above,to build an altar  on Mount Gerizim. From this reason, they changed the counting of the Ten commandments, adding the overture of the commandments with  the words “I am the LORD thy God” (Exodus 20:1) as the first commandment. In another place (Deut 27:6),  in The Jewish version, it is written that an altar should be build to Lord, “on Mount Ebal”, while in the Samaritan pentateuch , It is written “on Mount Gerizim”.This version of the text, also appears in some other Non-Samaritan translation of the Torah as the Vetus Latina, the latin translation to the bible.

  In July 2008,  James Charlesworth, one of the scholars of the Dead Sea Scrolls, publisehd a fragment from cave 4 at  Qumeran,of Deut 27:4-6, which similar to the Samaritan version of the verse, and suggests the text: “On Mount Gerizim” (בהרגריזים), in one word as the Samaritans write it in thier version of the Torah.
((See also :http://blogs.owu.edu/magazine/the-discovery-of-an-unknown-dead-sea-scroll-the-original-text-of-deuteronomy-27.))

  These two mountains are mentioned, on the same verse, in context of the ceremony that the People of Israel should have, as they enter to The Holy land. While Mount Ebal mentioned as the mount from which the cursing will be proclamied, Mount Gerizim is mentioned as the mount of the blessing:

“And Moses charged the people the same day, saying: ‘These shall stand upon mount Gerizim to bless the people, when ye are passed over the Jordan: Simeon, and Levi, and Judah, and Issachar, and Joseph, and Benjamin;  and these shall stand upon mount Ebal for the curse: Reuben, Gad, and Asher, and Zebulun, Dan, and Naphtali.  And the Levites shall speak, and say unto all the men of Israel with a loud voice” (Deut 27:11)

  Another  difference, is a difference concerning to the time of choosing the chosen place by God. While the Samaritan tradition holds, that God chosen his Holy place, during the Creation, The Jewish tradition explains, that  it was  chosen only 440 years after the entrance to the holy land. That’s the reason, they have changed, in the pentateuch, the past tense of the verb ‘choose’  as it is in The Samaritan version,-(‘chosen’)  to the  future tense ‘will choose’, in each instance relates to the chosen place. This change was clearly made,  in order to explain the holiness of Jerusalem, which is from a later period than the Pentateuch,  as  the chosen place rather than Mt. Gerizim.

Our forefathers and Mount Gerizim.

 The prophets, according to the Samaritan Tradition, from Adam to Our lord Moses, had doubtless, a direction toward which they turn themselves in their worship of God.

  What befell our forefather Abraham, after God commanded him to depart from his land and native home, and said  to him “Go to the land which I shall reveal unto thee,and wherein I shall make thee a great people, and bless thee” Abraham  departed, following his God’s commandmet, and came to the land of Canaan, andמציג את 20140623_222834.jpg journeyed in it, till he entered Shechem ( Nablus) , that is to “the meadow of Moreh”, which is known scripturally and traditionally to be identical with Nablus. ( Gen 12).Here, is the place where he pitched his tent. Here, as he remained for a while and settled  down,God appeared to him and conversed with him, and blessed him, and promised to give him , and his seed, that land.

  Our  forefather Jacob arrived safely from his Journey which was accomplished by God’s  providence as is indicated in Genesis 31:13 where God says, ” I am the God of Bethel, where thou anointedst a pillar and didst vow a vow: arise and go to the land of thy nativity”. While on  the mountain ,as he was on his way, he vowed as follows:

“If god will be with me and will keep me in this way which I go, and will give me bread as food and clothes to put on and if i return in peace to the house of my father;God shall be my Lord , and this tone that o have set shall be the house of God” 

When the lord  favored  him, and gave him blessings and brought him back in peace , and fulfilled his request , and conferred upon him his favors, He imposed it a duty upon him to fulfill his vows. He reminded him of his pillar  and promise , and told him to g to that very plcae wherein he made his vow, there to fulfill Jacob loaded with abundant favors, obediently left his uncle, and came in direction of Shechem (Nablus), for it was the intended place : 

“And Jacob came in peace to the city of Shechem, which is in the land of Canaan, when he came from Paddan-aram; and encamped before the city.  And he bought the parcel of ground, where he had spread his tent, at the hand of the children of Hamor, Shechem’s father, for a hundred pieces of money.  And he erected there an altar, and called it El-elohe-Israel. “(Gen 33:18)

Now, The single return of Jacob to the city of Nablus, is the fulfillment of his prayer which he utteres in the course of his vow, saying, “And if I return safely to the house of my father”. Verily, it was the fulfillment of what he wished . By “the house of his father” it means the altar his grandfather Abraham has built in the plain at Nablus, and it is the very one previously mentioned as “Elon Moreh”. Therefore our lord Jacob pitched his tent in that place.“He pitched his tent before that city”. The city is Nablus. He also bought that plain,to which reference has been made, from the people of that day, and which is called “Halkat us Shadi”.

The thirty-second of the   twenty-fourth chapter of Joshua reading as follows: 

 “And the bones of Joseph, which the children of Israel brought up out of Egypt, buried they in Shechem, in the parcel of ground which Jacob bought of the sons of Hamor the father of Shechem for a hundred pieces of money; and they became the inheritance of the children of Joseph. And Eleazar the son of Aaron died; and they buried him in the Hill of Phinehas his son, which was given him in mount Ephraim” 

The Samaritan tradition explains, that the cause of thier forefather Jacob’s buying this parcle of land was its exalted rank, becuase our Lord Abraham erected upon it an altar , and bacuse of its nearness to Mount Gerizim.The burial of our lord Joseph   is in that very place. 

 Our lord moses ,on whom be peace, mentioned in the song that was sung by himself and his people, the children of Israel, in connection with the incident of the sea, and which is found in Exodus 15:17, meaning as follows:

” Thou wilt introduce them,and plant them upon the mountain of thy inheritance, in thy place. O LORD, which Thou hast made for Thee to dwell in, the sanctuary, O Lord, which Thy hands have established. The LORD shall reign for ever and ever.”

This prophecy of our lord Moses confirms the continuation of the Sanctity of hat place.

In the book of Joshua, in chapter 24 verse 25-26, it says:

“So Joshua made a covenant with the people that day, and set them a statute and an ordinance in Shechem.  And Joshua wrote these words in the book of the law of God; and he took a great stone, and set it up there under the oak that was by the sanctuary of the LORD”

This ‘Hailah’ (In the Hebrew version), the oak, is the one under which our lord Jacob buried the spoils his children took from nablus, when they came up to this mountain, as it is seen in Gen 35:4, “And they gave unto Jacob all the foreign gods which were in thier hands, and the rings which were in thier  ears: and Jacob hide them under the oak which was by Shechem”. Thus it is clear from this and other passages that the sanctuary of God was in Shechem ( Nablus), and that it is the place wherein existed ‘Hailah’, whose fame is great with Samaritans until this day. Even the Muslims who live nearby or in Nablus receive blessings from it, and following the manner of the children of Israel,call it, “The pillar”, deriving this name from the pillar which Joshua set, and whereupon he wrote the covenant which he made with the children of Israel.

Mount Gerizim Is the Mount of Blessing.

The most  prominent sacred spots on the summit of mt. Gerizim are :

  •  The Eternal Hill – A flat bedrock whose name is derived from Deut 33:15, and which according to the Samaritan tradtion, was the location of Joshua’s Tabernacle ( Mishkan). The term ‘Eternal Hil’ can also refer to the whole monut.
  • The Altar of Issac  –  A bedrock  which forces of nature,made him look like a nature altar, where accrofing to Samaritan Tradition, Abraham has bound his son Issac, in order to sacrifice him. (Gen 22:2).
  • The Twelve Stones – According the Samaritan chronicles, Mount Gerizim is the Place, where Joshua erected the stones on which he wrote the law and build an altar (Deut 27:5 SP)
  • The Altar of Adam – The place where, according to the Samaritan tradition, Adam made his first sacrifice.
  • The Altar of Seth – The place where, according to the Samaritan tradition, Seth son of Adam, built his altar.
  • The Altar of Noha– The place where , according to the Samaritan tradition, Noha has.

In the Samaritan tradition, Mt. Gerizim is seen also  as the place, where  other biblical and theological  stories took place, as the resting of Noah’s ark  on the top of the mount (Gen 8:4),  and the exile of Adam and Eve from Garden of Eden, on the seventh day of the creation. ( Gen 3:23).

 Marqeh, the greatest scholar The samaritans ever had, mentions 13 names of Mount Gerizim : 

  1. Mountain of the East (Gen 10:30)
  2. Bethel (Gen 12:8)
  3. one of the Mountains (Gen 22:2)  
  4. The Lord will Provide (Gen 22:14)
  5. House of God (Gen 28:17)
  6. Gate of Heaven (Gen 28:17)
  7. Luzah (Gen 28:19 SP)
  8. a Sanctuary (Exod 15:17)
  9. House of the Lord (Exod 23:19, 34:26)
  10. the Goodly Mount (Deut 3:25)
  11. Mount Gerizim (Deut 11:29)
  12. The Chosen Place (Deut 12:11)
  13. The Everlating Hill (Deut 33:15 SP)

History:

According to Samaritan chronicles , Joshua had built the sanctuary (Mishkan) on the summit of Mount Gerizim. Another try to bulid  a sanctuary  ( hyklh) , as it t brought by Samaritan chronicles, was by the priest Abed-el  who returned from the exile, in  the head of  300,000 people . Abed- El built an altar, and sacrificed sacrifices, but was stopped by an angle ,revealed to him in his dream, and prohibited the continuation of the altar.

Josephus speaks of the building (Ant 11:302-347) and destruction  (Ant 13:255-256) of a samaritan temple on Mount Gerizim. However, Samaritan chronicles and other liturgy, says nothing about a temple, or a destruction of a temple, on Mt.Gerizim.According to  him the religious tension between the Jews and the Samaritans led to the temple on Gerizim being destroyed by either John Hyrcanus in the 2nd century BCE ( or by Simeon the Just according to the Talmud).

 In Jesus’s discussion with the Samaritan woman he revealed his feeling about worship there: Jesus said to her:

“Believe me, woman, The hour is coming when neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you people worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, because salvation originates with the Jews. Nevertheless, the hour is coming, and it is now, when the true worshipers will worship the Father with spirit and truth.” (John 4:21-23)

During the Hellenistic period there was a Samaritan city, called Hargerizim, and constructed  (In  one word ) on the central range of the mountain. A temple  dedicated to Zeus Hypsistos was built on the northern end of the range during the Roman  period.The temple overlooking Shechem was connected to it by a staircase. The main road from Shechem to Mt. Gerizim rose along the ridge west of the Temple of Zeus and connected Mt. Gerizim with Samaria’s major traffic arteries. 



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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?,1 answers 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.



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AMERIGO VESPUCCI

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.”

AMERICA’S GODFATHER

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 historicity12of 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 the Iliad 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 or Uncle Tom’s Cabin.



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MODERN HISTORIOGRAPHY

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 Gilgamesh and 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

SORDID ASPECTS

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.

THE LAND OF CANAAN

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 Fregosi19 and 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 hisCommentary to the Torah, was originally titled The 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.

MOSES WRITES ABOUT HIS OWN DEATH?

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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CHRISTIAN ZIONISTS HELP

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 Israelaims 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.

MAN’S INHUMANITY TO MAN

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.

ENDNOTES:

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 angelfire.com/ak/BaltoMuslims. 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.”

BIBLIOGRAPHY:

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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Ancient Israel, as we know it, never existed!

“Take Egypt out and the whole structure of the Israelites’ tale would instantly fall.”

Dr. Ashraf Ezzat

Did you know that Egypt is mentioned in the Holy Bible approximately 700 times(Egypt: 595 times, Egyptian(s): 120 times).

Obviously, Egypt must have played a vital role in the history of the Hebrews otherwise it wouldn’t have been such a recurring theme in the Jewish holy book.

Egypt was, and still is, the magnificent overture to the Israelites’ story. Take Egypt out and the whole structure of the Israelites’ tale would instantly fall.

The land of the Nile has been the theater for the Israelites’ epic stories of alleged enslavement, divine retaliation, wandering in the wilderness and finally a breath-taking and logic-defying exit.

But on the other hand, do you know how many times Israel or the Israelites were mentioned in the ancient Egyptian records? … Well, and according to history and the ancient Egyptian meticulous records – get ready for the surprise– once or … maybe none at all.

Now and before I take you on a little journey back in time, around 3000 years ago, I want you to contemplate on this paradoxical ratio 1:700, and try to answer this simple question; what if there was someone who, you were told, talked of you hundreds and hundreds of times, citing places and stories he said had shared with you, only you don’t know who he is or what the hell he is talking about … what do you call that person? … A liar!  A deluded person!  … or maybe someone who is trying to steal your thunder.

If that is your answer, then we’re having a common ground for my following argument. If not, then, hop on my time machine and let’s visit the ancient Egyptian empire at its zenith.

Once mentioned but never again

King Merneptah Stele – 1208 BC

The only time Israel was mentioned in the ancient Egyptian texts, the most meticulous and coherent of the world’s ancient civilizations and which covered the chronicles of nearly 3000 years, was in Merneptah Stele, a black granite slab engraved with a description of the victories of king Merneptah– son of the great Ramses II- in a military campaign against the Meshwesh Libyans and their Sea People allies, but its final two lines, line 26 & 27, refer to a prior military campaign in Canaan in the Near East.

The stele which dates to about 1208 BC was discovered by renowned British archaeologist Flinders Petrie at Thebes in 1896.

The Inscription contains a hymn and a list of the Pharaoh’s military victories.   A tribe, whom Merenptah had victoriously smitten”I.si.ri.ar?”Or as Petrie quickly suggested that it read: “Israel!” is on the list of conquests.  The mention of Israel is very short; it simply says, Israel is laid waste, its seed is no more.”

Watch the video of the Merneptah Stele as dispalyed in the Egyptian museum

However, a number of alternative readings for the text “I.si.ri.ar” have been suggested and debated. The most common alternative suggested is that of Jezreel (city) or the Jezreel Valley.

This was the first extra-biblical Egyptian source to mention the tribe of Israel and the last one for that matter.

Yes, maybe the tribe, not the kingdom, of Israel had been mentioned in King Merneptah Stele, but it was ascertained to be completely devastated and existed no more. Interestingly enough, the Israelites were depicted (with distinctive hieroglyphs) in the Egyptian stele as Bedouins/nomads who were always on the move and who never settled in one place/city- contrary to the Israelite story of invasion and settlement they have been raving about during long centuries of silent Egyptian records- the ancient Egyptian writing, Hieroglyphs, has been deciphered in 1822 byJean Francois Champollion

Israel in hieroglyphs ( in Merneptah Stele )

While the other defeated Egyptian enemies listed besides Israel in Merneptah stele such as Ashkelon, Gezer and Yanoam( cities to be inhabited later by pelset/philistines )were given the determinative for a city-state—”a throw stick plus three mountains designating a foreign country”—the hieroglyphs that refer to Israel instead employ the determinative sign used for foreign peoples: a throw stick plus a man and a woman over three vertical plural lines. This sign is typically used by the Egyptians to signify nomadic tribes without a fixed city-state, thus implying that ysrỉꜣr “Israel” was the demonym for a seminomadic population who were always on the move at the time the stele was created.

Unlike the old school of biblical archeology, which grabbed the spade in one hand and the bible in the other, modern archeologists describe their approach as one which views the Bible as one of the important artifacts into which centuries of Near Eastern cultural accumulations [Egyptian, Phoenician and Sumerian] had been integrated and sometimes copycatted [but] not the unquestioned narrative framework every archaeological find has to fit into.

Despite the scarcity of archeological finds that corroborate the veracity of the Hebrew bible’s narrative, modern archeology doesn’t deny the Israelites existed; rather it states they only existed quite differently.

For example, current Egyptology and Archaeology deny that there was an Exodus. Instead, they say that this is a confused memory of the Expulsion of the Hyksos from Egypt while stressing the fact that Hyksos had nothing to do with the Israelites.

Since relentless excavations of Canaan/Palestine by Israeli and western archeologists since the beginning of the  twentieth century only widened the gap between the historical truth as academics know it and the tales of the Hebrew bible, I thought maybe we could look for the missing part somewhere else.  And since more consistent and reliable documentation is needed, we should therefore try and look for the truth in Egypt.

Egyptian hegemony over the Levant / Canaan

Relief depicting King Ramses II smiting his enemies

The bible chronology ironically places the exodus at around 1200BC, in the same period king Merneptah and his father Ramsses II ruled over Egypt, whose documented legacy speaks nothing of, or even close to, this Hebrew tale of “Great Escape” from the Nile valley.

On the contrary, king Merneptah leaves behind no tales of bewitched snakes or parting sea but only his famous stele which bears witness to the devastation of the Hebrew tribe.

The ancient Egyptian civilization depended entirely upon geography and that’s what mainly distinguished it from the Mesopotamian civilization.

The land of Egypt enjoyed many natural barriers; there were deserts to the east and west of the Nile River, and mountains to the south and the Mediterranean Sea to the north. This isolated the ancient Egyptians and allowed them to develop a truly distinctive culture.

While Ancient Egyptian Empire was centered around the Nile River, Egypt’s kings consistently affirmed their control far and beyond the country’s eastern borders and spread their influence over a great chunk of the Levant in order to secure trade routes and relations with eastern powers.

So the territory known today as Palestine/Israel, Jordan, Lebanon and South Syria was practically under Egyptian sovereignty with fortified military garrisons and castles all over the area.  And hence the hilarious part of the exodus tale is exposedFor you don’t exit the US by fleeing New York and heading for Massachusetts.  Sinai and Canaan was very much Egyptian territory at the time.

The chieftains of Canaan’s tribal communities and leaders of the small cities had to pledge loyalty to the mighty king of Egypt.  In return they would be granted his majesty’s protection and support in times of hardships. (Have you ever heard of Egyptian presence in Canaan in the narrative of the Hebrew bible, I don’t think so)

An example to the Egyptian hegemony over the Levant / Canaan, particularly during the new kingdom (1570 – 1070 BC), is the valley of Meggido.

Megiddo is the biblical city of Armageddon that stands above the plain where, at the end of the world, the final/ mythological battle between the armies of the Lord and the kings of the earth will be fought out, as the Book of Revelations tells (Revelations 16:16).

According to the documented/orthodox history, besides being the place of one of the greatest battles in the Egyptian empire, Meggido was merely one of those obscure tribal centers concentrated in land valleys and scattered along the Egyptian international trade roads. Its semi-nomadic people earned their living by shearing wool from sheep.

And to get a clearer picture of how the so called biblical cities depended entirely on Egyptian protection and support and how it was essential for their chieftains/leaders to show their unflinching loyalty to the Egyptian monarchy; Here is one of the famousAmarna letters, discovered in 1887, in which Biridiya, the chieftain of Meggido is practically groveling for the help of king Amenhotep IV (Akhenaten, 1350-1334 BC).

Notice that Biridiya is addressing the king of Egypt as “my lord, my god and son” and not as “Pharaoh”- another Biblical myth the writer of this essay consistently refutes.

Read: Debunking the Israelite Myth: Ancient Egypt Knew No Pharaohs

Letters from Biridiya of Megiddo

“To the king, my Lord and my God and Sun, thus speaks Biridiya, the loyal servant of the king:  At the feet of the king, my Lord and my God and Sun, seven times and seven times I prostrate myself.
 
May the king know that since the archers have gone back, Labayu [chieftain of  Shechem/ biblical town of Jacob and where Joseph is allegedly buried] carries out acts of hostility against me, and that we cannot shear the wool and that we cannot pass through the gate in the presence of Labayu, since he knows that you have not given (me) archers; and now he intends to take Meggido, but the king will protect his city so that Labayu does not seize her. In truth, the city is destroyed by death as a result of pestilence and disease. Grant me one hundred garrison troops to guard the city, lest Labayu take it. Certainly, Labayu has no another intentions. He tries to destroy Meggido.”

So the biblical city of Meggido was so small and feeble that 100 garrison troops were enough to secure and defend it against a takeover by another tribe. And that was during a period of time supposedly referred to in the Israelite history as the Settlement in Canaan (Judges Period)

Geopolitics and landscape of ancient Canaan

Canaan on the map

Actually the Hebrew bible sketched such a misleading landscape for the land of Canaan; it is depicted as an attraction site for different peoples that even the god of the Israelites, who obviously suffered from geographical illiteracy, eyed it as his promised land.

Canaan’s miscellaneous landscape, framed by sea and desert, by Egypt and Anatolia, part bad lands, part green plains, never lent itself to the notion of nationhood. In the mountains it was hard enough to survive, let alone indulge in the luxury of court politics. And in the plains, the cities of central and southern Canaan were all on the ancient highways, on the roads to somewhere else, between Egypt and the Hittites and Mesopotamia

Moreover, the biblical description is obviously unfamiliar with the geopolitical reality in Palestine. Palestine was under Egyptian rule until the beginning of the first millennia BC. The Egyptians’ administrative centers were located in Gaza, Yaffo and Beit She’an.Egyptian presence has also been discovered in many locations on both sides of the Jordan River.

This striking presence is not mentioned in the biblical account, and it is clear that it was unknown to the author/Hebrew scribe and his editors

Moreover, the archaeological findings blatantly contradict the biblical picture: the Canaanite cities were not ‘great,’ were not fortified and did not have sky-high walls – as in the notorious story of the walls of Jericho. The heroism of the conquerors, the few versus the many and the assistance of the God who fought for his people is but a theological reconstruction lacking any factual basis.

Though Merneptah stele was the only Egyptian reference to mention Israel, but it wasn’t the only reference on military campaigns in Palestine/Canaan. Other Egyptian kings from the new kingdom (1550 – 1069 BC) have left us valuable inscriptions (on stele and temple walls) that documented many of their battles in Canaan as did king Ramses II in his famous battle with the Hittites in Kadesh (1274 BC)- though the documents of the battle, one of the earliest in history, made references to the major Canaanite/Levantine cities at the time, none of the biblical towns as frequently cited in the Hebrew’s holy book, were ever mentioned in the Kadesh chronicles.

The sea peoples’ invasion of Canaan

In Year 8 of the reign of king Ramsses III, the Sea Peoples, most arguably from the Aegean & the Ionian islands, dared to wage an unprecedented offensive war against Egypt by land and sea.  King Ramsses III defeated them in two victorious land and sea battle (1178 BC)

This battle has been described as ‘the first naval battle in history’. The details of the combat are meticulously recorded on the walls of the mortuary temple of kingRamesses III at Thebes/Medinet Habu– one of the largest and best-preserved temples in Egypt.

 

\

 

Although he had defeated the Sea Peoples, king Ramsses III could not ultimately prevent some of them (specifically the Peleset/philistines) from eventually settling in Canaan and Palestine some time after his death

At Medinet Habu Ramses III displayed the names (with their stylized images) of seven of his defeated enemies who constituted the belligerent coalition of the sea peoples along with the then major political players in Canaan, who were either defeated or tempted to join the sea people’s incursion on Egyptian borders:

The names on the inscription were:

(Hittites) The wretched chief of Kheta as living captive.
(Amorites) The wretched chief of Amor.
(Tjekker) Chieftain (lit. the Great One) of the foe of Thekel (TAkwrA).
(Sherden) Sherden (SArAdAnA) of the sea.
(Bedouins) Chieftain of the foe of Sha[su] (SA ///).
(Teresh) Teresh (tjwrASA) of the sea.
(Philistines) Chieftain of the Pe[leset] (pw //////).

The Bible paints the Philistines – one of the identified seven factions of the belligerent coalition against Ramsses III – as the main enemy of the Israelites with a state of almost perpetual war between the two peoples, that was often embroidered with mythical tales of heroism (David vs. goliath)

Since the battle of king Ramsses III took place at a time leading up, according to the Israelite chronology, to the United Monarchy (1030-931 BC) one would anticipate, if Ramsses III’s infantry units were forced into combat with all the major players in Canaan including the Hittites, Amorites and the Philistines, to find Israel/Israelites amongst them.

But again, that was not the case. The well preserved records of Ramsses III’s battle in Canaan insist but to exclude the Israelites out of the historical/geopolitical scene of the region and paradoxically few years prior to the establishment of David & Solomon alleged kingdom.

And while we could easily distinguish the philistines among the engraved inscriptions on the walls of Medinet Habu, the Israelites are nowhere (in the Egyptian documentation) to be found.
Now, the obvious question is where in the archaeological record are the Israelites that King Merneptah fought?

Ze’ev Herzog

However, Prof. Ze’ev Herzog of the Archaeology Faculty at the University of Tel Aviv, asserts that there is no evidence in the archaeological record that Israel was ever a powerful force, whether at the time of the Merneptah stele’s creation or at any other time during that general period.

The conditions in ancient Palestine were inhospitable for urban settlement nor the development of any kingdom for that matter, and certainly no showcase projects such as the Egyptian shrines/temples or the Mesopotamian palaces could have been established there.

The Egyptian documents make no mention of the Israelites’ presence in Egypt and are also silent about the events of the Exodus. Nevertheless, the documents do mention the custom of nomadic shepherds to enter Egypt during periods of drought and hunger and to camp at the edges of the Nile Delta. However, this was not a solitary phenomenon: such events occurred frequently over thousands of years and were hardly exceptional.

In his article “Deconstructing the Walls of Jericho“, appearing in Ha’aretz (29 October 1999), Ze’ev Herzog calls the mention of Israel on the stele a reference to “population group of nomads” who most probably were always on the move, looking for fertile land to herd their animals. In the article Herzog concludes

“Following 70 years of intensive excavations in the Land of Israel, archaeologists have found out: The patriarchs’ acts are legendary stories, we did not sojourn in Egypt or make an exodus, and we did not conquer the land. Neither is there any mention of the empire of David and Solomon. Those who take an interest have known these facts for years, but Israel is a stubborn people and doesn’t want to hear about it.”

Many historians today agree that at best, the stay in Egypt and the exodus events occurred among a few families and that their private story/vague memory/ folk tale was expanded and ‘nationalized’ to fit the needs of theological ideology- very much similar to how modern-day Zionism has nationalized those remote and inconsistent Jewish tales to serve its political project in Palestine.

Having clarified that chapter of the history of the Egyptian empire in late Bronze Age during which it controlled all of Canaan and practically most of the Levant I think it is becoming less of a puzzle for us why Egypt hardly mentioned or referred to Israel in its records whereas the Israelites were raving about Egypt all the time.

While Egyptians were occupied with the task of weaving the fabric of a unique culture and building an empire, the Israelites were busy telling fables and fictitious stories that grew bigger all the time as they wandered around.

Source



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Population of Israel in Bible times 

http://www.biblicalresearchbulletin.com/uploads/BRB-2007-2-Fouts-Demographics.pdf



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KING SOLOMON: FACT OR FICTION

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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Mythological Elements in the Story of Abraham and the Patriarchal Narratives

http://www.rejectionofpascalswager.net/abraham.html

From obviously mythical characters such as Adam and Eve and Noah we come now to characters that even the more “liberal” Christians accept as historical. We will look at the patriarchal narratives, the stories in Genesis about Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Joseph.

These characters are accepted as historical primarily because they refer to elements in their story which seemed historical. Thus we find in the patriarchal narratives stories relating to domesticated camels, caravan trade routes, neighboring peoples (Philistines, Ishmaelites etc) and actual cities (such as Gerar). Certainly some of these, domesticated camels and camels used as beasts of burdens, can still be seen in the Middle East today. The neighboring peoples were real and the cities have been found.

It is "historical" elements such as these that separate the stories in the patriarchal narratives from the myths of many other religions in the region. Let us see how strong this position is today.

 

 

The Large Gap Between Abraham's Life and the Written Account

First we will need to get a firmer date on the earliest possible sources on the character mentioned in the Pentateuch. We show elsewhere that Moses could not have written the first five books of the bible; and that, in fact they were written at a much later date. There is a verse that reveals to us, the earliest possible date for its composition:

 Genesis 36:31 
These are the kings who reigned in the land of Eden, before any king reigned over the Israelites.
 

It is obvious from the verse above, the author was writing at a time when the Israelites already had, at least, a king. The first king of the Israelites was Saul who became king around 1025 BC. [a] Thus the earliest possible date for the composition of the Pentateuch, or parts of it, would be the tenth century B.C. Scholars vary in their estimate on exactly when the oldest portion (called the “J” document) of the source document for these books was written. Some estimate the document to be written as early as the tenth century BC (during the reign of Solomon, David’s son), while others estimate it to have been written as late as the sixth century (during the time of the Babylonian exile). These estimates are not relevant to our current analysis. The only point worth noting is that the verse above, have set an upper limit on the date of composition of the Pentateuch. [1]

Now calculating from our table of biblical chronology, Abraham lived around the twentieth second century BC. (As a mark of the historical uncertainty surrounding this date, there exist many different estimates for these dates. Abraham has been estimated to live in the 25th, 21st, and the 16th century BC; i.e. the estimates fall within a span of 1,000 years! [2]) Taking the latest estimated dates for these patriarchs and the earliest estimated date for the composition of the “J” document -in other words the “best case” scenario for believers- we still have a gap of 600 years between the “historical” Abraham and his story in Genesis! The historian Robin Lane Fox (b.1946) has this to say about the effect of this time gap on the historicity of the Pentateuch:

 Its chances of being historically true are minimal because none of these sources [the source documents for the Pentateuch] was written from primary evidence or within centuries, perhaps a millennium, of what they tried to describe. How could an oral tradition have preserved true details across such a gap? At most, it might remember a great event or new departure: like... the Israelites Exodus from Egypt...As for...the exploits of Jacob or Abraham, there is no good reason to believe any of them. [3] 

Thus save for very rough social memories of major events or turning points in the history of these people, we should dismiss all the rest as myths accreted through the centuries of oral transmission. Note that we are not simply dismissing the rest as myths without any evidence. In fact in many cases where references were made to events or things that could be verified historically, we find the stories in the Bible to be false or anachronistic. Such is the case with the following examples taken from the patriarchal narratives.

Back to the top

 

Anachronism #1: Domesticated Camels

In our first example. note that there are two references to domesticated camels in the story of Abraham:

 Genesis 12:14-16 
[W]hen Abram was come into Egypt, the Egyptians beheld the woman that she was very fair. The princes also of Pharaoh saw her, and commended her before Pharaoh: and the woman was taken into Pharaoh's house. And he entreated Abram well for her sake: and he had sheep, and oxen, and he asses, and menservants, and maidservants, and she asses, and camels.
 
 Genesis 24:10-11 
And the servant took ten camels of the camels of his master, and departed; for all the goods of his master were in his hand: and he arose, and went to Mesopotamia, unto the city of Nahor. And he made his camels to kneel down without the city by a well of water at the time of the evening, even the time that women go out to draw water.
 

As noted earlier, Abraham’s lifetime has been estimated anywhere between the 25th century BC and the 16th century BC. The above passage implies that camels were already domesticated and in use during that time.

However, based on every other available evidence we have, tame camels were simply unknown during Abraham's time. Egyptian texts of that era mentioned nothing of them. Even in Mari; the kingdom that is situated next to the Arabian deserts; which would have had the greatest use for camels; and of which archaeologists have a large collection of documents; not a single mention is made of camels in contemporaneous text.

In fact, it was only in the 11th century BC that references to camels started to appear in cuneiform texts and reliefs. After the 11th century, references to camels become more and more frequent. [4] This suggests that camels were domesticated around the 12th or 11th century BC. 

Thus there could have been no domesticated camel during Abraham’s lifetime. It must be, then, that the above stories are later additions to the legend of Abraham.

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Anachronism #2: The Arabic Camel Caravan Trade

The next anachronism concerns the story of how Joseph's brothers planned to sell him off to slavery. The brothers initially threw Joseph into a pit (Genesis 37:22-23). They then left the pit for a while and this is how the next phase is narrated

 Genesis 37:25-28 
And they [Joseph's brothers] sat down to eat bread: and they lifted up their eyes and looked, and, behold, a company of Ishmaelites came from Gilead with their camels bearing spicery and balm and myrrh, going to carry it down to Egypt. And Judah said unto his brethren, What profit is it if we slay our brother, and conceal his blood? Come, and let us sell him to the Ishmaelites, and let not our hand be upon him; for he is our brother and our flesh. And his brethren were content. Then there passed by Midianites merchantmen; and they drew and lifted up Joseph out of the pit, and sold Joseph to the Ishmaelites for twenty pieces of silver: and they brought Joseph into Egypt.
 

Before analyzing further we need to make known some archaeological facts.

In the first place, as we have shown in anachronism #1, camels were not yet domesticated during that time. Furthermore excavations in the southern coastal plain of Israel found that camel bones increased dramatically only in the seventh century BCE. More importantly these bones were of adult camels, as one would expect of beast of burden used in traveling to different places. For if they were bred there one would expect to find a scattering of young camel bones as well. This means that camels were commonly used in the caravan trades during that time.

This is further supported by Assyrian sources that mentioned camels being used as beast of burdens in caravans during that time. The items being traded, gum, balm and resin, [written as "spicery, balm and myrrh" in the KJV above] were Arabian exports that were traded commonly only from the eight and seventh century BCE under the control of the Assyrian empire.

Now on to a bit of chronology. Even if we accept the rather unusually long ages of the patriarchs, we will see that the incident referred to must have happened only around 260 after Abraham was born (refer to the biblical chronology). Thus during the time of Joseph, camels were stillnot domesticated, there were still about (at the very best case) another five hundred years before Arabic (Ishmaelites was the Bible name for Arabs) camel caravan trade in gum, balm and resin, could be referred to in an "incidental manner" as above. [5]

Thus the story of Joseph's abduction, specifically the mention of the Arab camel caravan trade and the Arab traders buying Joseph, is also littered with anachronisms.

Back to the top

 

Anachronism #3: Circumcision

The second story from Abraham we will look at is the one regarding the institution of circumcision.

 Genesis 17: 9-11 
And God said to Abraham, “...This is my covenant, which you shall keep, between me and you and your descendants after you: Every male among you shall be circumcised. You shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskins, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and you.”
 

This is definitely another late accretion to the Abraham legend. We know that circumcision was widely practiced in ancient times in the fertile crescent; in particular, the Egyptians and the Canaanites, the people Abraham would have had most contact with, practiced the rite.

Thus the question arises, how could the act of circumcision be “a sign of the covenant” between God and Abraham when everyone else is doing it? It was only during the time of the Babylonian captivity, during the sixth century, that this custom could have set the Jews apart. For the Babylonians of that time did not practice circumcision. [6]

Thus, the story of circumcision being a sign of covenant between God and Abraham is also mythical.

 

Anachronism #4: The Philistine City of Gerar

Next we discuss an incident from the story of Isaac, son of Abraham:

 Genesis 26:1 
And there was a famine in the land, beside the first famine that was in the days of Abraham. And Isaac went unto Abimelech king of the Philistines unto Gerar.
 

Now Isaac was born when Abraham was 100 years old (Genesis 21:5). Thus the events narrated above happened (if it did happen) somewhere between 24th and 15th century BCE, depending on where Abraham is located in time. (The Biblical chronology points to 24th century BCE.)

Archaeological evidence shows that the Philistines did not have any settlements in the coastal plain of Canaan until after 13th century BCE. Archeological excavation at Gerar (now identified as Tel Haror northwest of Beersheba) shows that it was no more than a "small, quite insignificant" village during the initial settlement of the Philistines during the Iron Age I (1150-900 BCE). Gerar only became a significant city only in the seventh century BCE.[7]

Thus there would have been no city of Gerar and no king of the Philistines to meet with Isaac during the historical period in which he would have lived.

Back to the top

 

Conclusions on the Patriarchal Narratives

What can we conclude from the above?

Firstly, at the very least, we can conclude that many elements in the patriarchal narratives are unhistorical. The story of Isaac meeting the Philistine king in Gerar for instance could not have happened because there was simply no Philistine settlement in Canaan during that time and Gerar has not yet existed. The story of how Joseph got shipped to Egypt is in the same boat (pardon the pun). For there were simply no Arabic camel caravan trade groups during the time of Joseph.

Secondly, there is a more disturbing (for believers) conclusion. Thomas Thompson, Professor of Old Testament at the University of Copenhagen, noted that if the specific references in the patriarchal narratives have been shown to be anachronistic, then they add nothing to the story; but these very references were the historical anchors that supposedly rooted the narratives into history in the first place. Without them how are we to distinguish the narratives from other completely mythical folk tales?[8]

Back to the top

 

Notes

a.This verse is taken from the portion of Genesis believed to have formed part of the original “J” document. The “J’ document is generally believed the be the oldest source documents for the Pentateuch.
b.The general consensus among archaeologist about camels and their domestication can be summed up by the two quotes: The first quote about the domestication of camels is from, Lawrence Stager, Dorot Professor of the Archaeology of Israel and Director of the Semitic Museum at Harvard University, who had excavated in Israel, Tunisia and Cyprus, in his article in the recent book Oxford History of the Biblical World (1998):
 W.F. Albright’s Assessment, based on contemporary texts and limited faunal remains, that dromedary camels became important to the caravan trade only towards the final centuries of the second millennium BCE is still valid.[9] 

The second, is from another archaeologist, Wayne T. Pitard of the University of Illinois, has this to say about camels and their uses :

 Scholars have also observed a number of anachronisms in the stories, another characteristic of oral literature…Camel caravans are mentioned in Genesis 26 and 37, but camels were probably not used before the beginning of the iron age (1200 BCE) when Israel was already emerging as a nation.[10] 

Fundamentalist apologists have tried to present this by providing what they claimed are examples of camel domestication. One such example is this website. However a close examination of their "evidence" reveals a few fatal flaws:

 

  • Camel bones and artifacts made from camels found in ancient settlements. These by themselves only show that camel parts were used by the community. For instance in the website sited, much is made of camel bones found at Umm an-Nar (Oman) excavation. Yet the fact that dugong (a sea cow) bones were found at the same location is ignored. Nobody would suggests that finding the sea cow bones in the settlements indicate that they were domesticated! (A good write up on the Umm an-Nar finds can be found here. This website correctly summarized the archaeological evidence favors a late second millennium date for the domestication of dromedary (i.e. one hump) camels.) Obviously the bones signify the animals were hunted and were eaten and leftovers used to make rope, tents etc. Thus such evidence does not show domestication.

     

  • Carvings and potteries. Most of the evidence for camel domestication prior to the end of the second century BCE depends more on the interpretation of ambiguous carvings and potteries. As the reader can see from the Christian apologist website referenced above, even drawings that merely show the camel lying down is taken as "evidence" of domestication! Animals represented in pottery, carvings of drawings were not exclusively domesticates. In the Umm an-Nar site, relief drawings include camels, oxen, oryx and serpents!

     

  • The "conclusive evidence" referred to in the website involved "finds" in the early twentieth century. The two archaeologists referred to, G. Möller and G. Schweinfurth , were active during the late nineteenth and early twentieth century! This should give the reader pause. If these early findings are conclusive that camel domestication stretches to the third millennium BCE. Why do most archaeologists today still deny this? The reason is simple, the time of the supposed findings (the early years of the twentieth century) is marred by poor stratigraphy, inaccurate pottery chronology and, in the words of the rather conservative archaeologist William Dever in his book What did the Biblical Writers Know and When Did they Know it? (Eerdmans, 2001; p56), “[Showed] An almost exclusively … biblical biases in their work.”! Indeed almost all “biblical archaeology” until around 1970 was dominated by a desire to show that the Bible is true after all. Most of the archaeological works there were funded by American Protestant seminaries. (Devers, p57) Any conclusions on dates from findings that are dated to this time (early years of the twentieth century) has to be treated as suspect.

References

1.Anderson, A Critical Introduction to the Old Testament: p34
Fox, The Unauthorized Version: p58
Livingstone: Dictionary of the Chrsitian Church: p143
2.Barthel, What the Bible Really Says: p78-79
Stiebing, Out of the Desert: p33
3.Fox, The Unauthorized Version: p176
4.Barthel, What the Bible Really Says: p79
Keller, The Bible As History: p168
5.Finkelstein & Silberman, The Bible Unearthed: p37
6.Asimov, Asimov's Guide to the Bible: p80
Barthel, What the Bible Really Says: p77-78
Riedel et.al., The Book of the Bible: p205-206
7.Finkelstein & Silberman, The Bible Unearthed: p37-38
8.Finkelstein & Silberman, The Bible Unearthed: p38
9.Coogan (ed), Oxford History of the Biblical World : p109
10.Coogan (ed), Oxford History of the Biblical World : p28


-- Edited by Admin on Thursday 24th of September 2015 05:51:20 PM

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How Great was the Empire of David and Solomon?

In 2005, the Israeli archaeologist Eilat Mazar announced that she had discovered what may have been the palace of King David. Mazar was criticized by some of her colleagues as a "biblical archeologist." She said that the Bible contains a "genuine historical account of the past." Archaeological colleagues at Tel Aviv University considered stories in Scripture to have origins in oral storytelling that might have been subject to embellishment before put into writing. They complained that conclusions about how vast the empire of David or Solomon empire should be limited to evidence derived from archeological field work.

In a book published in October 2007, The Quest for the Historic Israel, one of Mazer's colleagues at Tel Aviv University, Israel Finkelstein, describes David as ruling the Jerusalem area when it was still sparsely populated. Finkelstein writes of "bandits and rebels" having been attracted to marginal mountainous environments. David, he suggests, may have been a bandit rebel, dominating towns while in the protection racket as was Hammurabi and as a bandit rebels often were.

In another book, David and Solomon,Finkelstein writes:

The evidence clearly suggests that tenth-century Jerusalem was a small highland village that controlled a sparsely settled hinterland. note1

The population remained low and the villages modest and few in number throughout the tenth century BCE. note2

Finkelstein contends that here there is no clear archaeological evidence for Jerusalem's emergence at that time as the capital of a powerful empire with elaborate administrative institutions and a scribal tradition capable of composing such an elaborate chronicle of events. note3

In The Quest for the Historical Israel Finkelstein writes of archaeologists who have searched for support of the biblical narrative. and he writes of a minimalist school of archeologists "which rejected altogether the value of biblical history for the study of Canaan/Israel in the Iron Age." Finkelstein describes himself as "the voice of the center" between these two.

Finkelstein claims to have found evidence that David and Solomon were historical figures. But in looking for evidence of a great and prosperous empire in the time of David and Solomon he didn't find it. He writes of the University of Chicago's Oriental Institute excavation at Megiddo (in the Jezreel Valley) as "the most comprehensive dig in the history of biblical archaeology," and he concludes that the findings there do not justify a declaration that what was being examined existed in Solomon's time. Finkelstein writes of a variety of states having arisen in the 800s BCE, among them Aram-Damascus, Moab, Ammon, and northern Israel. He writes that "It is extremely difficult to envision a great empire ruled from a marginal region" (around Jerusalem) a century earlier. He writes that "The beautiful Megiddo palaces – until recently the symbol of Solomonic splendor – date to the time of the Omride dynasty of the Northern Kingdom, almost a century later than Solomon."

Finkelstein and a colleague, Neil Silberman, in a work titled The Bible Unearthed contend that archaeological evidence suggests that the kingdom of Israel at the time of Solomon was little more than a small city state and that it is implausible that Solomon received tribute as large as 666 talents of gold per year. They see David and Solomon as kings of Judah around the 10th century BCE.

National Geographic in 2010 published an article on Mazar and Finkelstein titled "Kings of Controversy."

A 2012 YouTube presentation not necessarily authoritative but great in detail asks the question "Is Israel Finkelstein Right about Solomon?" As of May 2014 it is followed by 39 comments.

ISRAEL FINKELSTEIN: So David and Solomon did not rule over a big territory. It was a small chiefdom, if you wish, with just a few settlements, very poor, the population was limited, there was no manpower for big conquest, and so on and so forth.

NARRATOR: This would make David a petty warlord ruling over a chiefdom, and his royal capital, Jerusalem, nothing more than a cow town.

ISRAEL FINKELSTEIN: These are the results of the radiocarbon dating. He or she who decides to ignore these results, I treat them as if arguing that the world is flat, that the Earth is flat. And I cannot argue anymore.

NARRATOR: But it's not so simple. Other teams collected radiocarbon samples following the same meticulous methodology. According to their results, Mazar's palace and Tappy's alphabet can date to the 10th century, the time of David and Solomon.

How can this discrepancy be explained? The problem is that these radiocarbon dates have a margin of error of plus- or minus-30 years, about the difference between the two sides.

NARRATOR: Pottery and radiocarbon dating alone cannot determine if the Kingdom of David and Solomon was as large and prosperous as described in the Bible. Fortunately, the Bible offers clues of other places to dig for evidence of this kingdom. The Bible credits David with conquering the kingdom, but it is Solomon, his son, who is the great builder.

More Reading

The Jewish Virtual Library (online). a one page article titled History of Jerusalem: Myth and Reality of King David's Jerusalem, by Daniel Gavron.



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 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_ancient_Israel_and_Judah

 



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The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia

https://books.google.co.in/books?isbn=0802837840
Geoffrey W. Bromiley - 1995 - ‎Religion
-The Samaritan creed, part of a personal prayer said before the altars on MtGerizim, succinctly outlines the basic beliefs: "We say: My faith is in Thee, YHWH; ...


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Israel's Other Temple: Research Reveals Ancient Struggle over Holy Land Supremacy

By Matthias Schulz

The Jews had significant competition in antiquity when it came to worshipping Yahweh. Archeologists have discovered a second great temple not far from Jerusalem that predates its better known cousin. It belonged to the Samaritans, and may have been edited out of the Bible once the rivalry had been decided.

Photo Gallery: The Samaritans of Israel Clad in a gray coat, Aharon ben Ab-Chisda ben Yaacob, 85, is sitting in the dim light of his house. He strikes up a throaty chant, a litany in ancient Hebrew. He has a full beard and is wearing a red kippah on his head.

The man is a high priest -- and his family tree goes back 132 generations. He says: "I am a direct descendent of Aaron, the brother of the prophet Moses" -- who lived perhaps over 3,000 years ago.

Ab-Chisda is the spiritual leader of the Samaritans, a sect that is so strict that its members are not even allowed to turn on the heat on the Sabbath. They never eat shrimp and only marry among themselves. Their women are said to be so impure during menstruation that they are secluded in special rooms for seven days.

Outside, on the streets of Kiryat Luza, near Nablus, a cold wind is blowing. The village lies just below the summit of Mount Gerizim. There's a school, two shops and a site for sacrifices. This is home to 367 Samaritans. It's a small community.

Everyone here is required to attend religious services in the synagogue on Saturdays. "Every baby boy has to be circumcised precisely on the eighth day," says the high priest -- not beforehand, and not afterwards.

Most important of all: the sect only believes in the written legacy of Moses, the five books of the Pentateuch, also commonly known as the Torah. They reject all other scripture from the Bible.

Once in the Majority

From a historical perspective, the Samaritans and the Jews have a common lineage. The Old Testament recounts that 10 of the 12 tribes in the region of Samaria founded the state of Israel in the year 926 BC. The two other clans lived farther south, in the mountainous region of Judah, with its capital Jerusalem (see map).

In other words, the Samaritans were once in the majority. In ancient times, there were 300,000 of them -- perhaps even over a million. But their strictest law almost led to their downfall. It states: "None of you may settle outside the promised land."

As a result, while the Jews fled across the globe to escape the cruelty of foreign rulers, their relatives persevered in the land of their forefathers and suffered under Byzantine tyrants and merciless sultans. At the end of World War I, there were only 146 of them.

"Today we are doing better," says Ab-Chisda cheerily, as he gazes out the window. Now, together with another group in Holon near Tel Aviv, this religious community consists of 751 individuals.

But this population increase only took place because they broke with age-old traditions and rescinded the ban against mixed marriages. In 2004, five Jewish women from Ukraine and one from Siberia, all of them ready and willing to get married, were accepted into the community.

Nevertheless, due to inbreeding, they have a wide range of genetic defects. Trade journals have published studies on the forgotten children of God. They often suffer from muscle weakness and Usher syndrome, also known as deafblindness.

A Grim Fate

But their religion is alive and well. They all gather for Passover, a holiday where the men wear white robes and perform a great animal sacrifice.

During the ceremony, a priest cuts the throats of 50 lambs. Streams of blood flow through a stone channel into a hole, where they are burnt along with the intestines. The meat, which is cooked in a large earthen oven, must be completely consumed during the night -- otherwise it becomes unkosher.

But where do these archaic people come from?

It is a question that intrigues an increasing number of religious scholars. Recent discoveries show that the Samaritans suffered a grim fate. They were once the guardians of the Ark of the Covenant and the keepers of the Mosaic tradition. But then they became the victims of a smear campaign.

His hair windblown, Stefan Schorch stands in front of the synagogue in Kiryat Luza. An expert on the Old Testament, Schorch hails from the University of Halle-Wittenberg in eastern Germany and comes here often -- usually armed with a tape recorder. He works like an ethnologist would when studying a remote indigenous tribe.

Above all, Schorch is looking for sacred books.

It's 7:30 a.m., and a priest unlocks a small house of worship and disappears into a niche behind a heavy red curtain. Inside stands a safe filled with old volumes of the Pentateuch. "Unbelievable," says the researcher, as he leafs through "a completely preserved edition from the 14th century." He photographs each page of the tome. Then the priest locks it away again.

'One Main Difference'

There was a time when nearly every affluent family possessed such a precious handwritten book. Some of them reached Europe. Now, the professor, who comes from the historic birthplace of Martin Luther's Reformation, studies these texts, checking them line by line, and word by word. And he compares the Samaritan Torah with the Jewish version.

"Actually there's only one main difference," he says. Among the Jews, Jerusalem is the world's religious epicenter, whereas for the Samaritans it's Mount Gerizim.

But which Torah is the original? Until recently, the generally accepted school of thought was as follows: In the fourth century BC, the Samaritans split off as a radical sect. In the Bible, they appear as outsiders and idol worshipers; they are evil. The parable of the "good Samaritan" (Luke 10:25-37) offers a rather atypical portrayal of a member of this sect.

The historian Titus Flavius Josephus, himself a Jew, mentions that the apostates erected a shrine "in all haste" in the year 330 BC, as a rather dilettantish attempt to emulate the Temple in Jerusalem.

Increasingly, though, it looks as though the Bible has handed down a distorted picture of history. Papyrus scrolls recovered from Qumran on the Dead Sea, as well as a fragment of the Bible that recently surfaced on the market for antiquities, necessitate a "complete reassessment," says Schorch.

Yet the most exciting indication of how history actually transpired has now been unearthed by Yitzhak Magen. Working behind security fences, the archaeologist has been digging on the windswept summit of Mount Gerizim.

His findings, which have only been partially published, are a virtual sensation: As early as 2,500 years ago, the mountain was already crowned with a huge, dazzling shrine, surrounded by a 96 by 98-meter (315 by 321-foot) enclosure. The wall had six-chamber gates with colossal wooden doors.

At the time, the Temple of Jerusalem was, at most, but a simple structure.

Magen has discovered 400,000 bone remains from sacrificial animals. Inscriptions identify the site as the "House of the Lord." A silver ring is adorned with the tetragrammaton YHWH, which stands for Yahweh.

All of this means that a vast, rival place of worship stood only 50 kilometers (31 miles) from Jerusalem.

It is an astonishing discovery. A religious war was raging among the Israelites, and the nation was divided. The Jews had powerful cousins who were competing with them for religious leadership in the Holy Land. The dispute revolved around a central question: Which location deserved the honor of being the hearth and burnt offering site of God Almighty?

Revising Holy Scripture

Researchers have a long way to go before they uncover all the details of this conflict. It's clear, however, that it was extremely acrimonious. Each side reviled the other. There was murder, mayhem and, ultimately, even the Holy Scripture was revised.

At first -- so much is clear -- the Samaritans had the upper hand. Indeed, compared with Jerusalem, Mount Gerizim enjoyed significantly older rights: In the great tale of the history of the chosen people, the mountain plays a key role.

Abraham, the progenitor of the Israelites -- who, according to legend, roamed through the Orient as a shepherd around 1500 BC -- stopped there because God had appeared to him in a wondrous vision. Later, Jacob the patriarch traveled there to build the original shrine.

In the fifth book of Moses, the mountain summit finally earns a prominent place in biblical history: After the flight from Egypt, the Israelites wandered through the Sinai desert for 40 years. At last, they reached the Jordan River from the east. Their old and weary leader gazed across the river to the promised land, where "milk and honey flow."

Shortly before his death, Moses issued an important command: The people must first travel to Mount Gerizim. He said that six tribes should climb it and proclaim blessings, while the other six tribes should proclaim curses from the top of nearby Mount Ebal. It was a kind of ritual taking possession of the promised land.

Finally, the prophet tells the Israelites to build a shrine "made of stones" on Mount Gerizim and coat it with "plaster." Indeed, he said, this is "the place that the Lord has chosen."

No Mention of a 'Chosen Place'

That, in any case, is what stands in the oldest Bible texts. They are brittle papyrus scrolls that were made over 2,000 years ago in Qumran, and have only recently been examined by experts.

In the Hebrew Bible, which Jerusalem's priests probably spent a good deal of time revising, everything suddenly sounds quite different. There is no longer any mention of a "chosen place."

The word "Gerizim" has also been removed from the crucial passage. Instead, the text states that the Yahweh altar was erected on "Ebal." "By naming the mountain of the curses," says Schorch, "they wanted to cast the entire tale in a negative light, and deprive Gerizim of its biblical legitimacy."

Schorch dates the intervention to around 150 BC. The researcher stops short of calling it fraud, though, preferring to label it an "adaptation of the Bible to their own religious view."

But why was this ruse ultimately successful? Why did the minority win out? Didn't the opponent have the more populous country? A palace already stood in their capital city, Samaria, in the year 1000 BC. Ivory has been found there. At the time, Jerusalem was still little more than a village, with barely 1,500 inhabitants.

Researchers have solved this puzzle, and the answer even has a face: It sports a curly beard and wears a bronze helmet. Starting in the year 732 BC, the Assyrians used their chariots to advance to the Mediterranean and subjugate the state of Israel. The inhabitants were either impaled or taken into captivity.

This devastated the country. The land of the Lord had been overrun by violent hordes. Many fled to their cousins in Judah. Jerusalem's population soared to 15,000.

Drinking and Whoring Heathens

Strengthened by this influx, the priests there decided it was time for them to play the leading role in religious matters. Only a few years after the invasion, King Hezekiah persuaded all Israelites -- Jews and Samaritans alike -- to make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. He said this was the only place that still retained the freedom and purity to worship the Almighty. The neighboring country was, of course, occupied by drinking and whoring heathens.

To underscore their claim, the Jewish people wove an entire biblical tale around their small, southern kingdom. According to this story, around 1000 BC the biblical King David ruled from Jerusalem over a glorious kingdom. His son Solomon allegedly built in the city a temple made of cedar, "completely overlaid with gold." According to the Bible, over 180,000 workers toiled to build it.

Total nonsense: Not a single shred of archaeological evidence has ever been found to confirm the existence of Solomon's Temple.

The goal of the deception was clear, though: Judah's priests sought to magnify the glory of their own city. And they passed up no opportunity to vilify their rivals: In the Bible the Samaritans were nearly always portrayed as unsavory characters. They were also said to be ethnically impure because their blood had supposedly been mixed with that of foreign colonialists.

The book of Ezra even recounts that these "enemies" tried to hinder the reconstruction of the destroyed Temple of Jerusalem -- out of pure envy, because they didn't have one of their own.

In reality, though, at that time, a shining divine fortress had already stood for many years on Mount Gerizim. Magen, the archaeologist, has discovered jewelry, silver, a fine cosmetics set and a small golden bell from the splendid robe of a high priest.

Living in Peace

Around the year 180 BC, the ceremonial building grew to a size of roughly 200 by 200 meters. The Samaritans added a monumental staircase and rooms for "thousands of pilgrims." There were apparently huge crowds of devout visitors. None of this is mentioned in the Bible.

The dispute finally came to a head. In the year 128 BC, John Hyrcanos, a Jewish prince, ascended Mount Gerizim with an army and burned the proud sanctuary to the ground. Archaeologists have found a "burn layer" along with arrow heads, swords, daggers and lead missiles for slings.

The Samaritans never rebuilt their temple. From then on, the victors wrote the (biblical) history books and forced their rivals into oblivion.

And yet the "guardians of the law," as they call themselves, still exist today. When Mark Twain visited the region in 1867, he encountered the "sad, proud remnant of a once mighty community," which he stared at "just as one would stare at a living mastodon."

Today, this astounding religious community is better off. They have a seat in the Palestinian parliament and they maintain contacts with the United Nations. "We want to live in peace with everyone," says the high priest Ab-Chisda.

Despite their tragic history, the spiritual leader has not lost his sense of humor. In response to the question as to what the Samaritan paradise looks like, the old man hesitated briefly. Then, he said mischievously: "It must be a wonderful place. Nobody has ever returned to make a complaint."

http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/new-research-shows-that-jerusalem-may-not-be-the-first-temple-a-827144.html



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Originally Posted by bishadi View Post
yo revo

with a comment like that, i am sure people would love to see the comparisons.

perhaps you can point out something critical.

Im asking because you are more of a no nonsense kind, that i think others may accept as credible.

Be fair, you're on stage
with pleasure, Bishadi....


the Old Testament says:

(( Therefore it shall be when ye be gone over Jordan, that ye shall set up these stones, which I command you this day, in mount Ebal, and thou shalt plaister them with plaister )) Deutoronomy 27:4

the text above claims that God ordered the Israelites to set up the stones on Mt.Ebal, while the Samaritan Torah claims it was Mt.Gerizim, so whic one of them is true ?? Samaritan or Masoratic ?? is this the original text ?? did the original text really say: Mt.Ebal ?? Not according to the Dead Sea Scrolls:

Let's write down the text in various languages of the Bible, and then see which one of them agrees with the Dead Sea Scrolls:




Hebrew Text:


ד וְהָיָה, בְּעָבְרְכֶם אֶת-הַיַּרְדֵּן, תָּקִימוּ אֶת-הָאֲבָנִים הָאֵלֶּה אֲשֶׁר אָנֹכִי מְצַוֶּה אֶתְכֶם הַיּוֹם, בְּהַר עֵיבָל; וְשַׂדְתָּ אוֹתָם, בַּשִּׂיד




Aramaic Text:


ܘܡܐ ܕܥܒܪܬܘܢ ܝܘܪܕܢܢ܂ ܐܩܝܡ ܟܐ̈ܦܐ ܗܠܝܢ ܕܡܦܩܕ ܐܢܐ ܠܟܘܢ ܝܘܡܢܐ ܒܛܘܪܐ ܕܓܒܠ܂ ܘܐܟܠܫ ܐ̈ܢܝܢ ܒܟܠܫܐ܂




Greek Text (Septuagint):


καὶ ἔσται ὡς ἂν διαβῆτε τὸν ιορδάνην στήσετε τοὺς λίθους τούτους οὓς ἐγὼ ἐντέλλομαί σοι σήμερον ἐν ὄρει γαιβαλκαὶ κονιάσεις αὐτοὺς κονίᾳ







Samaritan Text:








from all the texts above, we can see that all of them say "Mt.Ebal" instead of "Mt.Gerizim", so which is right, all of them or the Smaritan Text alone is right ??


let's see what the Dead Sea Scrolls say:












so, the text above says: "Mt.Gerizim"


for more detailed information about this issue:

http://www.ijco.org/?categoryId=84964&itemId=193993



Professor "Eugene Ulrich" (Professor of Hebrew Scripture and Theology in the Department of Theology at the University of NotreDame), has said:


((Then only at a third level did the replacement of “Mount Gerizim”with the odd and problematic “Mount Ebal”occur; it can be explained only as a hasty and ill-thought-out polemical reaction against “Mount Gerizim.))

Studies on the Texts of the Desert of Judah, VOLUME 92 : The Dead Sea Scrolls Transmission of Traditions and Production of Texts, Page: 222







Professor "Jozsef Zsengeller" (professor of Old Testament at the Reformed Theological Academy of Pápa, Hungary) has said:

((We have to Realize, however, that the Masoretic reading in Deuteronomy 27:4 "on Mount Ebal" is almost certainly a secondary ideological correction, as opposed to the text-historically original "on Mount Gerizim", which is preserved in the Samaritan Pentateuch and the Old Latin (Vetus Latina). ))

Samaria, Samarians, Samaritans: Studies on Bible, History and Linguistics (Studia Samaritana), Page: 28








Professor "Jan Dušek" (researcher at the Centre for Biblical Studies of the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic and the Charles University in Prague) has said:

(( Scholars long suspected that the version of the Samaritan Pentateuch is the original and that the Masoretic text represents a later modification reflecting an Anti-Samaritan polemic. This opinion is shared by the majority today. The reading of "Mt.Gerizim" instead of "Mt.Ebal" is attested in three ancient versions: in the Greek text of the "Papyrus Giessen 19" which is a revision of the LXX, in the "Vetus Latina" and also on one Hebrew fragment with the text of Deuteronomy 27:4-6 presumably discovered in the Qumran cave. Thus the reading of "Mt.Gerizim" in Deut 27:4 does not belong to the above mentioned Samaritan elements added to the pre-Samaritan text but represents the original reading. The reference to "Mt.Ebal" preserved in the Masoretic text is a secondary variant. ))

Aramaic and Hebrew Inscriptions from Mt.Gerizim and Samaria between Antiochus III and Antiochus IV Epiphanes, Chapter 2, Page: 90







Professor "Kristin De Troyer" (Professor of Old Testament / Hebrew Bible in St Mary's College-The School of Divinity-University of St Andrews) has said:

(( That the altar was built on Mount Ebal might seem strange. After all, Mount Ebal has been associated with the curses that the Israelites uttered at the event of the covenant-renewal ceremony of Deut 11:29 (see also Deut 27:13). ))

Reading the Present in the Qumran Library: The Perception of the Contemporary by Means of Scriptural Interpretations, Page: 156







Professor "James H. Charlesworth" (Professor of New Testament Language and Literature and director of the Dead Sea Scrolls Project at Princeton Theological Seminary) has said: 

(( correct reading and to remove possibilities of misunderstanding. They sought to serve the circle of Jews for whom the copy was intended. I suggest that our fragment preserves the original reading and indicates that the MT and related textual traditions reflect alterations. )) 

Announcing a Dead Sea Scrolls Fragment of Deuteronomy:

http://www.ijco.org/?categoryId=84964&itemId=193993



Professor "Adam Clarke" (Bible Commentator) has said:

((Many still think Dr. Kennicott's arguments unanswerable, and have no doubt that the Jews have here corrupted the text through their enmity to the Samaritans.))

Adam Clarke's Bible Commentary - Deuteronomy 27:

http://www.godrules.net/library/clarke/clarkedeu27.htm



Very Important Note:

the only text that agrees (or similar) to the Smaritan text is the text of an ancient Latin script named "Vetus Latina":


professor "Eugene Ulrich" (whom we mentioned above) has said:

(( An Old Latin manuscript agrees with the Samaritan Pentateuch in reading “Mount Gerizim” at Deut 27:4 ))

Textual Criticism and Dead Sea Scrolls Studies in Honour of Julio Trebolle Barrera, Page: 361


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When Injustice becomes a Law 

Resistance becomes a Duty


http://www.loonwatch.com/
http://forum.davidicke.com/showpost.php?p=1061453774


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