Cain slays Abel in the Old Testament

Gerald A. Larue wrote in “Old Testament Life and Literature”: “The Old Testament is a collection of selected writings composed and edited by members of the Hebrew-Jewish community between the twelfth century B.C. and the beginning of the Christian era. It includes such diverse materials as prophetic oracles, teachings of wise men, instructions of priests and ancient records of the royal courts. Some material is historical, some is legendary; some is legalistic, some is didactic. For the most part the literature was written in Hebrew, but a few passages were written in Aramaic, a kindred language which came into common usage among the Jews during the post-Exilic era (after the sixth century B.C.). The Aramaic portions include Dan. 2:4b-7:28; Ezra 4:8-6:18, 7:12-26; Jer. 10:11; and one phrase in Gen. 31:47 "Jegar-sahadutha," translated "Heap of Witness."[Source: Gerald A. Larue, “Old Testament Life and Literature,”1968, infidels.org <=>]

“The term "Old Testament,"1 or more properly "Old Covenant," is a Christian designation, reflecting the belief of the early Christian Church that the "new covenant" mentioned in Jer. 31:31-34 was fulfilled in Jesus and that the Christian scriptures set forth the "new covenant," just as the Jewish scriptures set forth the "old covenant" (II Cor. 3:6-18; Heb. 9:1-4). Jewish scholars prefer the term "Tanak," a word formed by combining the initial letters of the three divisions of the Hebrew Bible: Torah (Law), Nebhiim (Prophets), and Kethubhim (Writings). <=>

Websites and Resources: Bible and Biblical History: Bible Gateway and the New International Version (NIV) of The Bible biblegateway.com ; King James Version of the Bible gutenberg.org/ebooks ; Bible History Online bible-history.com ; Biblical Archaeology Society biblicalarchaeology.org ; Internet Jewish History Sourcebook sourcebooks.fordham.edu ; Complete Works of Josephus at Christian Classics Ethereal Library (CCEL) ccel.org ; Judaism Judaism101 jewfaq.org ; Aish.com aish.com ; Wikipedia article Wikipedia ; torah.org torah.org ; Chabad,org chabad.org/library/bible ; Religious Tolerance religioustolerance.org/judaism ; BBC - Religion: Judaism bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/judaism ; Encyclopædia Britannica, britannica.com/topic/Judaism; Jewish History: Jewish History Timeline jewishhistory.org.il/history ; Wikipedia article Wikipedia ; Jewish History Resource Center dinur.org ; Center for Jewish History cjh.org ; Jewish History.org jewishhistory.org ; Christianity and Christians Wikipedia article Wikipedia ; Christianity.com christianity.com ; BBC - Religion: Christianity bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/christianity/ ; Christianity Today christianitytoday.com

Old Testament and Jewish History

According to the Encyclopedia of World Cultures: “The connection of the Jewish people to the land called "Palestine" by the Romans is one of the oldest religio-political claims in the world. Jews (and many Christians as well) will point to God's promise to Abraham in Genesis 15:17 and Deuteronomy 1:7 and 11:24 as proof of the sacred "birthright" of Jews to what they call the Land of Israel (Eretz Yisrael). Jewish presence in Palestine has been constant (if very small in number), even after the final Roman suppression of the Jewish revolt in 135 C.E. Throughout premodern times, pious Jews lived in Palestine, concentrated in the four "holy cities" of Jerusalem, Hebron, Safad, and Tiberias. They were supported by funds, called halukkah, collected by special emissaries sent from Palestine to Jewish diaspora communities. [Source: Encyclopedia of World Cultures]

According to the BBC: “The history of Judaism is inseparable from the history of Jews themselves. The early part of the story is told in the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament). It describes how God chose the Jews to be an example to the world, and how God and his chosen people worked out their relationship. It was a stormy relationship much of the time, and one of the fascinating things about Jewish history is to watch God changing and developing alongside his people.” [Source: BBC]

Silver amulet with scrolls found in Ketef Hinom contain the world known passage of a Bible. : In 1979 two silver mini scrolls (actually amulets in antiquity) were discovered at Ketef Hinnom, an archaeological site that now has been incorporated into the Menachem Begin Heritage Center in Jerusalem. Dating to around 2,600 years ago they are written in paleo-Hebrew and contain the oldest biblical passage that survives to present day, part of a priestly blessing found in Numbers 6:24-26. The amulets say that Yahweh is stronger than evil and a "rebuker of evil." Researchers think the amulets would have offered protection to those who wore them. [Source: Owen Jarus, Live Science, September 30, 2013]

Producing the Old Testament

face of God as he produces the Moon and Sun

Gerald A. Larue wrote in “Old Testament Life and Literature”: “The Bible, as we know it today, is the end product of a long process of writing, editing and selecting of literature primarily concerned with Jewish religious concepts, and, as such, it has a long literary history. It cannot be assumed that a group of men composed writings echoing what they thought God was dictating. The Bible reflects historical situations, human events, men's reactions to these happenings, and the belief that God was also involved in events. [Source: Gerald A. Larue, “Old Testament Life and Literature,”1968, infidels.org <=>]

“The literary history of the Bible can be said to have begun in the time of Solomon when two men, or groups of men, produced what was to become the nucleus of the Old Testament. One concentrated on the story of David, drawing, no doubt, from court records and other sources, to produce a rather matter-of-fact and intimate account of David's rise to power, the weaknesses and strengths of the man and his family, and the successful coup by which his son, Solomon, gained the throne. The other writer or writers delved into the oral and written traditions of the past to enrich the understanding of the present. Stories of patriarchal ancestors, songs and folk-tales of the tribes, explanations concerning the origin of the world, and accounts of the action of God in the affairs of men, were gathered and woven into a saga explaining how the nation Israel came to be, and how God, who had acted in the past on behalf of his chosen people, was acting in the present and could be counted upon to act in the future. The theologized tradition or "sacred history," as it has been called, was probably utilized in the festivals and cultic rites of the temple. <=>

“But the writing did not stop in the tenth century. New events and new monarchs required the extension of national history, and a developing theology saw new facets of the relationship believed to exist between God and the nation. Some materials were undoubtedly discarded over the years, for the Bible reflects selectivity of materials, as we shall see. Study of the sacred literature and new historical events developed new insights and resulted in the addition of new materials. an extension of the creation narrative, detailed genealogies to account for various nations, and new traditions about the patriarchs to explain how history had developed. Even David's story was reinterpreted as David became, more and more, the prototype of the ideal king and, ultimately, of the Messiah. Other literary forms were added: sermonic utterances of the prophets, teachings from the schools of the wise men, devotional hymns of the temple, parables, and material related to the nation's understanding of itself and its divine purpose. <=>

“Differing theological insights are often apparent, so that as one writing reflects a universalistic spirit, another stresses particularism. Over and over again, however, it is made clear that the writers believed that traditions of what God had done for his people in the past symbolized what he could be counted upon to do in the future. Thus, a people in captivity to the Babylonians could see that as God once delivered others from the Egyptians, he would do the same for those presently enslaved. The literature had, therefore, a dynamic rather than a static quality; being more than a record of the past, it constituted a narrative of the activity of God on behalf of his people. <=>

Historical Periods of the Old Testament

Larue wrote in “Old Testament Life and Literature”: “In its present form, the Old Testament opens with religious traditions concerning the origin of the world and of mankind. In broad literary strokes, the transition is made to the beginnings of the Hebrew people with the adventures of the patriarchs-Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob-as they dwelt in the land of Canaan. Because of famine, the Hebrews migrated to Egypt where Joseph attained high office and his descendants were treated well. Change in Egyptian leaders altered their attitude to the newcomers, and the Hebrews were pressed into virtual slavery. Led by Moses, they escaped to the wilderness. After Moses' death, under the leadership of Joshua, a successful invasion of Canaan gave them control of the land, a mastery maintained with great difficulty and many wars. Ultimately, internal and external pressure became so great that a single leader, a king, became a necessity. Under Saul, David, and Solomon, Canaan was united into a single empire. [Source: Gerald A. Larue, “Old Testament Life and Literature,” 1968, infidels.org <=>]

“When Solomon died, the Hebrew kingdom split into northern (Israel or Ephraim) and southern (Judah) sections, and during the next few centuries the great prophetic figures (Amos, Hosea, Isaiah, etc.) proclaimed their messages. Israel fell to the Assyrians in 721 B.C. and was absorbed by the Assyrian empire, never again to become a nation. In 586 B.C. Jerusalem was conquered by the Babylonians and Judaeans (Jews) were taken into exile in Babylon, where they managed to maintain their identity. <=>

“Release came with the conquest of Babylon by the Persians under Cyrus the Great in 539 B.C. The exiled Judaeans were permitted to return to their homeland, reestablish themselves, and rebuild Jerusalem. Two leaders in the restoration movement, which reached its peak about the middle of the fifth century, were Ezra and Nehemiah. For two centuries, or until the coming of the Greeks tinder Alexander the Great in 333 B.C., 'Judah was ruled as a Persian province and the Jews enjoyed comparative freedom in matters of religion and social conduct. The introduction of Greek culture brought drastic changes. <=>

“When Alexander died in 323 B.C., his kingdom was divided among his generals and Judah was eventually controlled by the Seleucids of Syria. From this time onward, Greek social and cultural patterns made inroads into Jewish life, causing anguish and suffering to those who opposed change. Unable to endure the situation any longer the Jews rebelled and won freedom. For a short time, under Maccabaean leadership, Judah enjoyed the status of an independent nation, only to come under the control of the Roman empire. Here we leave the Old Testament period and enter the Christian era. However, as we shall see, there is far more than history or the interpretation of historical events within the literature of the Old Testament. <=>

Development of the Old Testament Canon

Larue wrote: “Writings accepted as authoritative for faith and teaching are said to be canonical, and when gathered together constitute a canon. The term "canon," the Anglicized form of the Greek word kanon designating a rod used for measuring, is related to a Semitic root appearing in Hebrew as kaneh, meaning a "reed." Used metaphorically in reference to religious matters, it signifies the measure or guide or standard for principles of belief and practice. [Source: Gerald A. Larue, “Old Testament Life and Literature,”1968, infidels.org <=>]

“The number of books constituting the canon of Old Testament Scripture varies among different religious groups. The Jewish Bible contains twenty-four books; the Protestant Bible, thirty-nine books; the Eastern Orthodox Bible, forty-three books; and the Roman Catholic Bible, forty-six books. The difference between the Jewish and Protestant versions is easily explained: one book in the Jewish Bible entitled "The Twelve" (Dodecapropheton), actually contains twelve prophetic writings which, in Christian versions, are counted individually, and four other writings which are treated as individual units in Jewish Bibles are each sub-divided into two books by Christians (I-II Samuel, I-II Kings, I-II Chronicles, Ezra-Nehemiah) . The additional books in the Orthodox and Roman Catholic Bibles include writings not accepted as canonical by Jews and Protestants, who place them in a collection known as "The Apocrypha." The term "Apocrypha" as applied to writings is first known to us through the work of Clement of Alexandria ( Stromata iii, 5), a Christian theologian-philosopher living in Egypt at the close of the second and beginning of the third centuries A.D. In the preface to his translation of Samuel and Kings (Prologus Galeatus) in the fourth century, Jerome, the great Christian scholar who made the Latin translation of the Bible known as the "Vulgate", applied the term to books found in the Greek translation of Hebrew scriptures but excluded from the Jewish canon. <=>

“Etymologically, "apocrypha" is derived from a Greek word meaning "hidden" or "concealed." The explanation as to why certain books were hidden may give to the word "apocrypha" either a complimentary or derogatory significance. In one sense, the books were hidden because they contained esoteric knowledge to be revealed only to members of a particular group. In another sense ' they were concealed because they were heretical writings not acceptable in the canon of scriptures. How parts of the Apocrypha came to be accepted by some and rejected by others is part of the story of the development of the canon. <=>

“It is estimated that close to 1,000,000 Jews lived in Alexandria, Egypt, during the third century B.C. Having been separated from Palestinian Judaism for many generations, the Alexandrian Jews spoke only Greek and could not understand the Hebrew scriptures. According to a legend preserved in "The Letter of Aristeas,"3 in response to a request that the Jewish scriptures be translated into Greek, seventy Jewish scholars (another tradition says seventy-two) went to Egypt and translated the first five books of the Bible (the Law or Torah). These books, believed to be the work of Moses, had achieved a relatively fixed form and canonical status during the fifth century B.C. <=>

“Subsequently other Jewish writings were translated: first the prophetic writings (the Prophets or Nebhiim), which had almost achieved canonical standing, and finally the Writings or Kethubhim, which incorporated all other authoritative religious documents. The tradition of the translation by the seventy was extended to include the entire Greek version which came to be known as "The Seventy" or in the Latin form as Septuaginta, now Anglicized to "Septuagint" and given a numerical abbreviation LXX. <=>

Books of the Jewish, Protestant and Catholic Old Testaments

Jewish — — Protestant — — Roman Catholic

The Law (Torah) Genesis — — — Genesis
— — — — — — Exodus — — — Exodus
Genesis — — — Leviticus — — — Leviticus
Exodus — — — Numbers — — — Numbers
Leviticus — — — Deuteronomy — — Deuteronomy
Numbers — — — Joshua — — — Josue (Joshua)
Deuteronomy — Judges — — — Judges
— — — — — — Ruth — — — — Ruth [Source: Gerald A. Larue, “Old Testament Life and Literature,” 1968, infidels.org <=>]

The Prophets (Nebhiim) — I Samuel — I Kings (=I Samuel)
The Former (Earlier) — II Samuel — II Kings (=II Samuel)
Prophets: — — — I Kings — — — III Kings (=I Kings)
Joshua — — — II Kings — — — IV Kings (=II Kings)
Judges — — — I Chronicles — — I Paralipomenon
I Samuel — — — II Chronicles — (= I Chronicles)
II Samuel — — Ezra — — — — II Paralipomenon
I Kings — — — Nehemiah — — (= II Chronicles)
II Kings — — — Esther — — — I Esdras (Ezra)
The Latter Prophets: Job — — — II Esdras (Nehemiah)
Isaiah — — — Psalms — — — ** Tobias (Tobit)
Jeremiah — — Proverbs — — — ** Judith
Ezekiel — — — Ecclesiastes — — Esther (with additions)
The Twelve: — Song of Solomon Job
Hosea — — — Isaiah — — — — Psalms
Joel — — — — Jeremiah — — — Proverbs
Amos — — — — Lamentations — Ecclesiastes
Obadiah — — — Ezekiel — — — Song of Songs
Jonah — — — — Daniel — — — ** Book of Wisdom
Micah — — — Hosea — — — — ** Ecclesiasticus
Nahum — — — Joel — — — — Isaias
Habakkuk — — Amos — — — — Jeremias
Zephaniah — — Obadiah — — — Lamentations
Haggai — — — Jonah — — — — ** Baruch (including the
Zechariah — — Micah — — — — Letter of Jeremiah)
Malachi — — — Nahum — — — Ezechiel
— — — — — — Habakkuk — — Daniel

The Writings — Zephaniah — — Osee (Hosea)
(Kethubhim) — — Haggai — — — Joel
— — — — — — Zechariah — — Amos
Psalms — — — Malachi — — — Abdias (Obadiah)
Proverbs — — — — — — — — — Jonas (Jonah)
Job — — — — — The Apocrypha — Micheas (Micah)
Song of Songs — * I Esdras (or III Esdras) Nahum
Ruth — — — — II Esdras (or IV Esdras)Habacuc
Lamentations — * Tobit — — — Sophonias (Zephaniah)
Ecclesiastes — — * Judith — — — Aggeus (Haggai)
Esther — — — — — — — — — Zacharias (Zechariah)
Daniel — — — — * Additions to Esther Malachias (Malachi)
Ezra — — — — * Wisdom of Solomon — **I Machabees
Nehemiah — — * Ecclesiasticus — ** II Machabees
I Chronicles — — * Baruch
II Chronicles — Letter of Jeremiah
* The Song of the Three Young Men
* Bel and the Dragon
Prayer of Manasseh
* I Maccabees
* II Maccabees

* Books accepted by The Eastern Orthodox Church but not included in the Jewish Canon. ** Books accepted by Roman Catholics but not included in the Jewish Canon.

Development of the Christian Old Testament

Gerald A. Larue wrote in “Old Testament Life and Literature”: “The contents of the Law and the Prophets had been determined by usage in the Jewish community prior to the LXX translation, but the limits of the Kethubhim had not been defined and books were included that were not to achieve canonical status among all Jews.4 When the Christian Church began to move into the Greek-speaking world during the first century A.D., the scripture used by the missionaries was the LXX. The authors of the New Testament Gospels drew upon the LXX to prove that Jesus was the Messiah and the fulfillment of Jewish prophecy, using some passages which the Jews argued had been inadequately translated from the Hebrew to the Greek (particularly Isaiah 7:14; compare with Matt. 1:23). The destruction of the Temple by the Romans in 70 A.D. gave Judaism a new direction, centering in scripture rather than sacrificial rites, so that it became imperative to define the limits of the authoritative writings. Consequently, in 90 A.D. at Jamnia (Jabneh) , situated west of Jerusalem near the Mediterranean, a council met under the leadership of Rabbi Johanan ben Zakkai to determine the Jewish canon. Long debates ensued over the Song of Songs, Esther, Ecclesiastes, and Ezekiel. The books agreed upon by the Council constitute the Jewish canon of today. [Source: Gerald A. Larue, “Old Testament Life and Literature,” 1968, infidels.org <=>]

Concerning other writings, both Jewish and Christian, the Council stated: “The Gospel and the books of the heretics are not Sacred Scripture. The books of Ben Sira and whatever books have been written since his time, are not Sacred Scripture. (Tosef Yadaim 2:13).“Meanwhile the Christians continued to use the LXX including books of the Apocrypha rejected by the Jamnia Council. There was, however, some uneasiness among Christian scholars concerning certain of the books and just prior to the Protestant Reformation questions were being raised about the authority of the Apocrypha. Seeking to go back to ancient sources, Protestant reformers accepted the Jewish canon and relegated the Apocrypha to the status of writings without authority for doctrine, partially, no doubt, because certain unacceptable doctrines were based upon these writings.5 For Protestants, the writings of the Apocrypha are separated from canonical scriptures and held to be non-authoritative for doctrine. <=>

“The Roman Catholic Church took the opposite stand at the Council of Trent held in Tridentum, Italy from 1545 to 1563 and, partially on the basis of traditional usage among Christians, declared the books of the Apocrypha, with the exception of I and II Esdras and the prayer of Manasseh, to be canonical and pronounced anathema upon all who denied their status. The accepted books are labeled "Deuterocanonical"6 by Roman Catholic scholars who restrict the use of the term "Apocrypha" to designate writings purporting to be inspired but not accepted into the Roman Catholic canon. The latter writings are labeled "Pseudepigrapha" (False Writings) by Protestant scholars. Later, in 1672, at the Council of Jerusalem, the Eastern Orthodox Church accepted I Esdras, Tobit, Judith, the Wisdom of Solomon, Ecclesiasticus, Baruch, the Prayer of Azariah and The Song of the Three Young Men, Bel and the Dragon, and I and II Maccabees into the canon, for reasons that are not completely clear.7<=>

“Thus, the term "Old Testament" has a wider and a narrower meaning, depending upon who uses it. This book will discuss the literature common to Jewish, Protestant, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox Bibles, and the writings called the "Apocrypha" by Protestants and Jews or "Deuterocanonical" by Roman Catholics.

Pentateuch: First Five Books of the Bible


The five books of the Pentateuch were named by the Jews of Palestine according to the opening Hebrew words:

I. Bereshith: "in the Beginning"
II. We'elleh Shemoth: "And these are the names"
III. Wayyiqra': "And he called"
IV. Wayyedabber: "And he spoke"
V. Elleh Haddebarim: "These are the words"<=> [Source: Gerald A. Larue, “Old Testament Life and Literature,” 1968, infidels.org <=>]

“The names now used in the English translations are from the Septuagint:<=>
I. Genesis: the beginnings of the world and of the Hebrew people
II. Exodus: departure from Egypt under Moses
III. Leviticus: legal rulings concerning sacrifice, purification, and so forth of concern to the priests, who came from the tribe of Levi
IV. Numbers (Arithmoi) : the numbering or taking census of Israelites in the desert
V. Deuteronomy: meaning "second law," because many laws found in the previous books are repeated here<=>

Silver amulet with scrolls found in Ketef Hinom contain the world known passage of a Bible. : In 1979 two silver mini scrolls (actually amulets in antiquity) were discovered at Ketef Hinnom, an archaeological site that now has been incorporated into the Menachem Begin Heritage Center in Jerusalem. Dating to around 2,600 years ago they are written in paleo-Hebrew and contain the oldest biblical passage that survives to present day, part of a priestly blessing found in Numbers 6:24-26. The amulets say that Yahweh is stronger than evil and a "rebuker of evil." Researchers think the amulets would have offered protection to those who wore them. [Source: Owen Jarus, Live Science, September 30, 2013]

Did Moses Write the Early Books of the Bible

Larue wrote: “These writings, which begin with the creation of the world and trace the development of the Hebrew people through the patriarchal period up to the invasion of Canaan, were believed from very early times to be the work of one person - Moses. There were those who questioned the Mosaic authorship. About A.D. 500 a Jewish scholar wrote in the Talmud that the last eight verses of Deuteronomy which tell of Moses' death must have been written by Joshua. By the time of the Protestant Reformation, Roman Catholic and Protestant scholars were discussing the difficulty of maintaining the Mosaic authorship of the Torah. [Source: Gerald A. Larue, “Old Testament Life and Literature,” 1968, infidels.org <=>]

“Part of the problem lies in the fact that at no point in the Pentateuch is it stipulated that Moses is the author; certain portions are said to be by Moses, but not the total writing. On the other hand, there is good evidence that Moses could not have been the author. In Gen. 14:14, Abram is said to have led a group of men to the city of Dan, but elsewhere it is stated that this city did not come into existence until the time of the Judges (Judg. 18:29), long after Moses' time. The conquest by the Gileadites of the area called Havvothjair took place in the time of the Judges (Judg. 10:3-4), yet it is reported in the Pentateuch (Num. 32:41; Dent. 3:14). The time of the Hebrew monarchy is reflected in Gen. 36:31, yet this passage is set in a discussion of the patriarchal period. How could Moses write of conditions that did not come into being until long after his death?<=>

Moses with the Commandments of God

“There is some indication that whoever wrote certain parts of the Pentateuch was in Palestine, within the territory which in Moses' time had not yet been entered. Gen. 50:10, Num. 35:14, and Deut. 1:1, 5, 3:8, 4:46 speak of places which are located "beyond the Jordan," which is to say on the east side of the Jordan and outside of Palestine proper. Such a statement could only be uttered by someone on the western side of the Jordan river, and Moses, we are told in Deut. 34, never entered that land. <=>

“Other evidence also suggests that Moses did not write the Pentateuch, and that many different writers made contributions to it. There are contradictory statements, one of the most obvious of which concerns the number of animals Noah took into the ark. In Gen. 6:19 Noah is told to take two of every kind of living creature - one male and one female - but in Gen. 7:2 seven pair of clean animals and birds are required. Would a single writer be so inconsistent?<=>

“Num. 35:6-7 specifies that Levites were to receive certain territorial inheritances, but Deut. 18:1 makes it quite clear that they are to have no inheritance. According to Exod. 3:13-15 and Exod. 6:2-3, the personal name of God, "Yahweh,"5 was revealed for the first time to Moses on the holy mountain. Prior to this revelation, Yahweh was known only as "Elohim,"6 or as "El Shaddai."7 On the other hand, however, Gen. 4:26 indicates that from very early times men called upon God by his personal name of Yahweh, and in numerous places the patriarchs use the name Yahweh (see Gen. 22:14, 26:25, 27:20, 28:13). Would a single author make statements so contradictory? In fact, the very manner in which divine names are used prior to the revelation of Yahweh's name in Exodus raises problems. In certain sections of Genesis "Elohim" appears exclusively (Gen. 1:1-31, 9:1-11) ; in other places "Yahweh" appears alone (Gen. 4:1-16, 11:1-9). It would appear that different traditions have been brought together. <=>

“Some stories appear more than once, in what scholars have called "doublets." For example, in Gen. 15:5 Abraham is promised many descendants, and in Gen. 17:2 the promise is needlessly repeated. In Gen. 12:11-20 Sarah pretends to be the sister of Abraham. This same story appears in a slightly different setting in Gen. 20:1-18, and is told again with Isaac and Rebekah as central actors in Gen. 26:6-11. In the last two examples, Philistine kings are mentioned and the Philistines did not settle in Palestine until the twelfth century. How are such repetitions, contradictions and anachronisms best explained?<=>

Who Wrote on the Bible

Writers of the Bible: J, E, P and D?

Matti Friedman of Associated Press wrote: “For millions of Jews and Christians, it's a tenet of their faith that God is the author of the core text of the Hebrew Bible _ the Torah, also known as the Pentateuch or the Five Books of Moses. But since the advent of modern biblical scholarship, academic researchers have believed the text was written by a number of different authors whose work could be identified by seemingly different ideological agendas and linguistic styles and the different names they used for God. [Source: Matti Friedman, Associated Press, June 30 2011]

“Today, scholars generally split the text into two main strands. One is believed to have been written by a figure or group known as the "priestly" author, because of apparent connections to the temple priests in Jerusalem. The rest is "non-priestly." Scholars have meticulously gone over the text to ascertain which parts belong to which strand.

“Over the past decade, computer programs have increasingly been assisting Bible scholars in searching and comparing texts, but the novelty of the new software seems to be in its ability to take criteria developed by scholars and apply them through a technological tool more powerful in many respects than the human mind, Segal said.

Analysis of Who Wrote the First Parts of the Bible

Larue wrote: “By the seventeenth century a number of scholars had wrestled with the problems of the Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch. Carlstadt, a leader of the Reformation movement in Germany, wrote a pamphlet in 1520 arguing that Moses did not write the Pentateuch, for the style of writing in the verses reporting Moses' death (Deut. 32:5-12) was that of the preceding verses. In 1574, A. Du Maes, a Roman Catholic scholar, suggested that the Pentateuch was composed by Ezra, who used old manuscripts as a basis. Thomas Hobbes, the English philosopher, concluded in 1651 that Moses wrote only parts of Deuteronomy (Leviathan III:33). In Tractatus theologico-politicus (1677), Baruch Spinoza, the Jewish philosopher, recognized as one of the founders of modern biblical criticism, reached a conclusion much like that of Du Maes, that Ezra compiled Genesis to II Kings from documents of varying dates. Shortly afterward, Richard Simon, a Roman Catholic priest, often called "the father of biblical criticism," gathered together the substance of critical analyses up to his time and raised the problem of literary history, thus opening the door to the application of techniques used in the study of non-sacred literature to the Bible. [Source: Gerald A. Larue, “Old Testament Life and Literature,” 1968, infidels.org <=>]

“In the eighteenth century Jean Astruc, a celebrated physician, published a treatise on Genesis in which he postulated that Moses used two major sources in writing the book of Genesis.8 The source in which the name "Elohim" is used for God, Astruc called "A," and that which used "Yahweh" was labeled "B." Ten fragmentary sources were also recognized and given alphabetical designations. Additional criteria for defining sources were worked out by J. G. Eichorn, sometimes called "the father of Old Testament criticism"9 or, on the basis of his five volume "Introduction" to the Old Testament, "the father of the modern science of introductory studies."10<=>

Julius Welhausen

“Others built upon these foundations. In 1806-7 W. M. L. DeWette, a German scholar, published a two volume introductory study of the Old Testament in which he suggested that the book found in the temple in 621 B.C., during the reign of King Josiah of Judah (II Kings 22-23), was the book of Deuteronomy. In the work of Julius Wellhausen, who built upon the research of K. H. Graf and Wilhelm Vatke, the most significant analysis of the Pentateuch was made.The thesis known as the Graf-Wellhausen theory, or as the Documentary Hypothesis, still provides the basis upon which more recent hypotheses are founded. <=>

“The Graf-Wellhausen analysis identified four major literary sources in the Pentateuch, each with its own characteristic style and vocabulary. These were labeled: J, E, D and P. The J source used the name "Yahweh" ("Jahveh" in German) for God, called the mountain of God "Sinai," and the pre-Israelite inhabitants of Palestine "Canaanites," and was written in a vivid, concrete, colorful style. God is portrayed anthropomorphically, creating after the fashion of a potter, walking in the garden, wrestling with Jacob. J related how promises made to the patriarchs were fulfilled, how God miraculously intervened to save the righteous, or to deliver Israel, and acted in history to bring into being the nation.11 E used "Elohim" to designate God until the name "Yahweh" was revealed in Exod. 3:15, used "Horeb" as the name of the holy mountain, "Amorite" for the pre-Hebrew inhabitants of the land, and was written in language generally considered to be less colorful and vivid than J's. E's material begins in Gen. 15 with Abraham, and displays a marked tendency to avoid the strong anthropomorphic descriptions of deity found in J. Wellhausen considered J to be earlier than E because it appeared to contain the more primitive elements. <=>

“The Deuteronomic source, D, is confined largely to the book of Deuteronomy in the Pentateuch, contains very little narrative, and is made up, for the most part, of Moses' farewell speeches to his people. A hortatory and emphatic effect is produced by the repetition of certain phrases: "be careful to do" (5:1, 6:3, 6:25, 8:1), "a mighty hand and an outstretched arm" (5:15, 7:19, 11:2), "that your days may be prolonged" (5:16, 6:2, 25:15). Graf had demonstrated that knowledge of both J and E were presupposed in D, and having accepted DeWette's date of 621 B.C. for D, argued that J and E must be earlier. J was dated about 850 B.C. and E about 750 B.C. <=>

“The Priestly tradition, P, reveals interest and concern in whatever pertains to worship. Not only does P employ a distinctive Hebrew vocabulary but, influenced by a desire to categorize and systematize material, develops a precise, and at times a somewhat labored or pedantic, style. Love of detail, use of repetition, listing of tribes and genealogical tables, does not prevent the P material from presenting a vivid and dramatic account of Aaron's action when an Israelite attempted to marry a Midianite woman (Num. 25:6-9) or from developing a rather euphonious and rhythmical statement of creation (Gen. 1). The Graf-Wellhausen hypothesis noted that P contained laws and attitudes not discernible in J, E, or D and reflected late development. P was dated around the time of Ezra, or about 450 B.C. <=>

“The combining of the various sources was believed to be the work of redactors. Rje, the editor who united J and E around 650 B.C. provided connecting links to harmonize the materials where essential. Rd added the Deuteronomic writings to the combined JE materials about 550 B.C., forming what might be termed a J-E-D document. P was added about 450-400 B.C. by Rp, completing the Torah. This hypothesis,12 by which the contradictions, doublets, style variations, and vocabulary differences in the Pentateuch were explained, can best be represented by a straight line. <=>

“Variations in the Graf-Wellhausen theory have been proposed since it was first expounded in the nineteenth century. Research into the composition of the individual documents produced subdivisions such as J1, J2, J3, etc. for J, and El, E2, and so on, for E until the documents were almost disintegrated by analysis.13 New major sources were recognized by other scholars. Professor Otto Eissfeldt discovered a fifth source beginning with Gen. 2 and continuing into Judges and Samuel which he labeled "L" for "Lay" source.14 R. H. Pfeiffer of Harvard University identified an "S" source in Genesis, so labeled because Pfeiffer believed it came from Seir (in Edom) or from the south.15 The great Jewish scholar, Julian Morgenstern, singled out what he believed to be the oldest document, "K," which, while in fragmentary form, preserved a tradition of Moses' relationships with the Kenites.16 Martin Noth of Germany argued for a common basic source "G" (Grundlage for "ground-layer" or "foundation") upon which both J and E are developed.17<=>

Different Approaches to Unraveling the Early of Who Wrote the Pentateuch?

Larue wrote: “Other patterns of approach to biblical literature have been developed and most of these supplement the historical-literary method. Each new methodology causes the scholar to reconsider familiar material in the light of new evidence or from a different angle of vision. The results of the multiple approach have been new insights into and a clearer understanding of biblical life and literature and a diminishing dogmatism about what any individual or group of scholars might consider to be "firmly established conclusions." [Source: Gerald A. Larue, “Old Testament Life and Literature,” 1968, infidels.org <=>]

“Deuteronomic History: A somewhat different study arrangement of part of the Pentateuch has been proposed by Martin Noth.1 Deuteronomy is combined with Joshua, Judges, I and II Samuel, and I and II Kings as part of an immense Deuteronomic history extending from Moses to the destruction of Judah by the Babylonians in the sixth century. The work, Noth believes, was composed by an individual who skillfully blended a variety of source materials into a single work. The point of view is Judaean, and the interpretive key to the whole is found in Deut. 4:44-30:20. The book of Deuteronomy is, according to this analysis, to be studied as part of an historical collection rather than simply as part of the Pentateuch. Noth's thesis will be acknowledged in this book. <=>

“Cultic Interpretation: A different approach, stressing the use of the Old Testament in worship, provides important clues for understanding the literature.2 Just as myth can be interpreted as the spoken or recited portion of a ritual, and drama or sacrifice or other physical performance as the enactment of the myth, the cult may be recognized as the structure of the organization making possible the ritual performance. Within organized religious structure, within the cult, the traditions of the past were transformed into ritual acts; therefore, to understand the significance of the tradition one must understand its relationship to the cult. Large portions of the Old Testament lend themselves to this mode of analysis. <=>

“Three great annual festivals were observed in ancient Israel: the Feast of Unleavened Bread (Passover)4 in the spring, the Feast of Weeks (or Harvest or Pentecost) in the early summer, and the Feast of Ingathering (Booths) in the fall (Exod. 23:14-17, 34:18-23). The Unleavened Bread celebration appears to have combined a nomadic pastoral festival when a lamb was sacrificed (celebrated on the first day of the festival) and an agricultural feast of unleavened bread occupying seven days, perhaps borrowed from the pre-Hebrew Canaanite inhabitants of Palestine. The Feast of Weeks, an agricultural harvest celebration, included the offering of "firstfruits" through which the total harvest, represented in the first reaping, was symbolically presented to the deity. During the festival of Booths, celebrated at harvest, the people lived in huts made of boughs, much as some families in the Near East do today at harvest time. Unleavened Bread was associated with the escape of the Hebrews from Egypt, Booths with the wilderness wanderings, and Weeks, ultimately, with the giving of the Torah, or with Noah's covenant.7 In addition to these major observances, numerous other cultic rites may have taken place at local shrines.8<=>

“Participation in the cult ceremonies had individual and national significance. For the individual, when the ritual was successfully completed, it marked the achievement of harmonious relationships with life-giving powers and with all life within the locale, the attainment of personal communion with the deity, and the participation in rites of community re-invigoration.9 For the nation the rite marked the renewal of life-power and of divine human relationships, and symbolized divine blessing for those belonging to the cult. What had happened in the past had meaning for the present; deliverance in the past, successfully re-enacted, was related to blessing, forgiveness, favor and deliverance in the present. <=>

“Such an approach to Old Testament literature tends to give scant attention to the analysis of sources. Emphasis is placed on blocks of literature and the usage of these literary units in cult rites. For example, it is argued that the annual festival of Weeks, celebrated at Gilgal, dramatized the deliverance of Israel from Egypt and the crossing of the Sea.10 Chapters 1-5 of Joshua are based upon this ritual and clearly demonstrate that the miraculous passage through the waters was enacted by a procession through the Jordan River. This kind of approach renders the attempt to distinguish the sources of Josh. 1-5 relatively unimportant.11<=>

“Form Criticism: Form criticism, or "form history," is a method of literary analysis seeking to go behind the written documents to the underlying oral traditions. Certain presuppositions, drawn from the study of folk literature, are basic to the method. It is assumed that folk memory tends to operate with small units, often no more than a line or two. These units grow out of folk events, and each unit has a characteristic pattern associated with the event, whether it be a wedding, a birth celebration, a funeral, a celebration of a victory over an enemy, or a liturgy accompanying an act of worship. Each unit, coming out of its own particular life setting,17 tends to have its structure or form fairly well fixed insofar as structural pattern, length and tendency18 are concerned. That is to say, the form associated with a wedding would differ from that utilized for funeral situations. Custom determined what details were "proper" or "right" for each. So long as the community interest in the event commemorated is kept alive, the oral unit will survive. <=>

Bible Development Timeline

“Within the Old Testament, certain features suggest the validity of such an approach: the priests gave instruction, the prophets uttered oracles, the wise men spoke their aphorisms, the judges pronounced verdicts, the choristers sang their psalms. For each situation there was a proper pattern of utterance. As we shall see, analysis of the cultic use of the Psalms depends heavily upon the recognition of poetic forms associated with specific situations. It is the purpose of form criticism to recognize stylistic features, to analyze them in terms of life settings and tendencies, and to trace the history of the form or the way in which its use developed within biblical literature. <=>

“The significance of this study for understanding oral tradition is obvious, for it aids in understanding how the literature could be preserved through the patriarchal period and even through the time of the Babylonian Exile. It is also significant for literary criticism, for not only does it draw attention to the important pre-literary stage of biblical materials, but it provides the basis for better understanding of the significance of Hebrew-Jewish literary patterns. <=>

Using Oral Traditions to Study the Bible

Larue wrote: “A number of Scandinavian scholars have moved away from the patterns of literary analysis previously discussed and have laid stress upon the importance of oral tradition in the transmission of Old Testament materials.12 One scholar, Eduard Nielsen, has argued that written Old Testament records prior to the Exile (sixth century) were negligible. This thesis rests upon a number of presuppositions. It is assumed that prior to the Exile writing skills were confined to a group of specialists whose services were employed primarily in formulating business contracts, legal texts, and inscriptions on monuments. Cult legends, traditions and laws were transmitted orally. For example, Isa. 8:16 records the prophet's intent to "bind up" his words with his disciples, and it is assumed that the "binding" is in their memory. When Jeremiah's words were written down because he could not deliver them in person and the scroll was destroyed by the king, Jeremiah seemed to have no trouble in reiterating his message, apparently in the same words (Jer. 36). Because there was no real dependency upon the written record, memory was cultivated and could be relied upon. [Source: Gerald A. Larue, “Old Testament Life and Literature,” 1968, infidels.org <=>]

“Where traditions were recited before a group, certain controls were placed upon the reciter, tending to "freeze" the form of the narrative and guarantee accuracy: controls from the professional body of which he was a part, and controls from listeners familiar with the tradition. Stereotyped forms tend to aid in memorization, and oral tradition may thus become as fixed as written records. <=>

“Certain criteria help to distinguish oral forms. For example, where only a single written prose record exists, the following clues point to an oral tradition back of the written form: a monotonous and rhythmic style, the repetition of expressions, changes of style in a single sentence which would ordinarily be caught and remedied in a written work, and use of catch words and other mnemonic devices. When there are doublets with discrepancies, one must undertake the difficult task of determining the relationship of the accounts to each other and to the earlier oral or written traditions.13<=>

“It is further presupposed that any written traditions that may have existed probably were not carried to Babylon by the Exiles; thus the whole pre-Exilic tradition, fortunately committed to memory, was perpetuated through oral tradition. Only after the destruction of Jerusalem was it finally reduced to writing.14 Such a thesis does not deny that traditions from different sources were ultimately blended, but it does reduce to unimportance the results of source analysis. <=>

Another Bible Development Timeline

“Up to the present time there has been no widespread acceptance by scholars of this particular hypothesis of the oral traditionalists. No one will question that oral forms lie back of the written materials, but few will accept the sixth century B.C. date for the beginning of written records. We will give limited attention to literary forms but we will not attempt to investigate the complicated and demanding subject of the oral traditions that lie back of the written records, except insofar as this study relates to "form criticism." (See below.)<=>

Archaeological and Linguistic Studies of the Bible

“Archaeological and language studies, special areas of research, have made significant contributions to the understanding of the Bible. <=>

“Archaeological research, concerned with the scientific study of the ancient past, may conveniently be divided into three areas: field work, analysis (some of which will also be done in the field) and application (some of which will also be done in the field). Field work consists of the discovery, excavation and identification of sites. Ancient cities were generally located near adequate water and agricultural resources and on trade routes. For purposes of defense, and perhaps to avoid flood waters, the cities were often built on hilltops. During the hundreds of years that these sites were occupied, they suffered destruction by enemies, earthquake, and fire, only to be rebuilt and reoccupied. As layers or strata of cultural deposit accumulated, the height of the mound or tell19 rose higher and higher. Many tells have been mapped and some have been identified. Often local Arabic names echo ancient biblical designations.20 Sometimes careful descriptions of the location in ancient records, including the Bible, make identification possible. Excavation of ancient sites involves careful removal of cultural layers, accurate cataloging of soil characteristics, artifacts, buildings, walls, etc. Analysis, which begins on the site and is continued after excavation, comprises dating of pottery vessels and sherds or pieces, identification of buildings, and interpretation of all like data significant for understanding the history of the site. Application, which may also begin on the site, is the use of information resulting from the excavation for better understanding of some aspects of the Bible or Near Eastern history and ecology. From archaeological research has come knowledge of nations heretofore unknown (such as the Hittites),21 a staggering amount of linguistic knowledge of Semitic languages including Ugaritic or Canaanite and Akkadian, and also of non-Semitic languages such as Egyptian, Hittite and Sumerian, some of which have helped in providing better translations of the Bible and all of which have made available vast quantities of textual data. In addition, many historical details omitted from the Bible are recovered and, what is perhaps equally important, many historical details provided in the Bible are confirmed.22 In a broader context, the recovery of household items, tools, jewelry, toys, weapons and cultic items, and the uncovering of homes, temples, industrial plants and other facets of daily life have put flesh and bone on biblical personnages, revealing them as individuals with responsibilities, interests and concerns parallel to those of our own time. The fruits of archaeology will be utilized throughout this book.23<=>

“From specialists in language have come translated texts of myths, prayers, hymns, historical documents, wisdom writings and other literature of the great neighboring nations of Palestine. Cuneiform tablets relating beliefs about creation, the flood, gods and goddesses have provided important information for understanding the Bible. Such knowledge makes it possible to comprehend the flow of ideas and the impact of one culture upon another, without ignoring the distinctiveness of each. Biblical literature is best understood in the context of the literature of the ancient Near East, for not only are relationships of concepts recognized, but the distinctiveness of Hebrew-Jewish writings is made clear. <=>

“A further contribution of linguists is in the provision of better texts and translations of the Bible. Some portions of the Bible have suffered in transmission.24 On occasion a word appears only once in the Bible and its meaning is not clear.25 Through comparative linguistics and manuscripts studies, better and clearer Bible texts and translations are available. We will employ the results of such research. <=>

Domesticated Camels Came to Israel in 930 B.C., Centuries Later Than Bible Says

milking a camel

Research published in late 2013 by two Tel Aviv University archaeologists shows that camels weren't domesticated in the eastern Mediterranean until the 10th century B.C.—several centuries after the time they appear in the Bible. The camels appear suddenly, following major changes in copper production throughout the region.

Mairav Zonszein wrote in National Geographic: “While there are conflicting theories about when the Bible was composed, the recent research suggests it was written much later than the events it describes. This supports earlier studies that have challenged the Bible's veracity as a historic document. The study, published in Tel Aviv: Journal of the Institute of Archaeology of Tel Aviv University, concerned the introduction of domesticated camels at copper smelting sites in Israel's Aravah Valley. [Source: Mairav Zonszein, for National Geographic, February 10, 2014 ~]

“The dromedary, or one-humped camel, is mentioned in the Bible 47 times. Stories about the Jewish patriarchs—Abraham, Joseph, and Jacob—include descriptions of camels as domesticated animals. For example, Genesis 24:11 says, "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." Historians believe these stories took place between 2000 and 1500 B.C., based on clues such as passages from Genesis, archaeological information from the site of the great Sumerian city of Ur (located in modern Iraq), and an archive of clay tablets found at the site of Mari (in modern Syria). ~

“Using radiocarbon dating and evidence unearthed in excavations, Israeli archaeologists Erez Ben-Yosef and Lidar Sapir-Hen have pegged the arrival of domesticated camels in this part of the world—known to scholars as the Levant—to a much later era. They were also able to more precisely pinpoint the time span when that arrival occurred. "By analyzing archaeological evidence from the copper production sites of the Aravah Valley, we were able to estimate the date of this event in terms of decades rather than centuries," Ben-Yosef said in a press release put out by Tel Aviv University last week. The study was able to "narrow down the range in which domesticated camels were introduced to 30 years," said Sapir-Hen, an archaeozoologist who studies the role of animals in ancient human culture, in a phone interview. It's "sometime between 930 and 900 B.C."” ~

Copper, Camels and the Bible

Mairav Zonszein wrote in National Geographic: “The Aravah Valley marks the Israeli-Jordanian border as it runs from the Dead Sea to the Gulf of Aqaba in the Red Sea. This area was a center of copper production beginning as early as the 14th century B.C. and ending in the late 9th century B.C. Archaeologists have identified an interesting pattern in their studies of animal remains from sites in this valley. Large quantities of camel bones appear only in the levels dated from the last third of the 10th century through the 9th century B.C. [Source: Mairav Zonszein, for National Geographic, February 10, 2014 ~]

Copper Age copper dagger

“The camels appear suddenly, following major changes in copper production throughout the region. This period coincides with the invasion of Egyptian king Sheshonq I—known in the Bible as Shishak-in 925 B.C. Archaeologists now wonder if the events are connected. After Egypt conquered the kingdoms of Judah and Israel, it may have reorganized the copper business and introduced camels as a more efficient means of transport than the donkeys and mules used previously. This would have had huge economic and social consequences for the Levant, opening it to parts of the world that lay beyond vast deserts, to which it had never before been connected. ~

“Camels were probably first domesticated in the Arabian Peninsula in the early first millennium B.C. Archaeologists base this date on mortality profiles of excavated skeletons, the gender of the animals, and lesions on leg bones that would have resulted from the repetitive stress of working as pack animals. The Arabian Peninsula borders the Aravah Valley, which would have been a logical gateway for camels into the Levant. In fact, Ben-Yosef and Sapir-Hen believe that the domesticated camels buried at sites in the Aravah Valley may have been among the first such creatures to leave Arabia. Archaeological excavations in the Aravah Valley have turned up bones of camels from earlier periods, perhaps even before the start of the Neolithic (about 9,700 B.C.), but those were probably wild animals that ran free, never burdened with the weight of copper ingots on their back.” ~


Pseudepigrapha are falsely-attributed works, texts whose claimed author is not the true author, or a work whose real author attributed it to a figure of the past. In biblical studies, the term generally refers to an assorted collection of Jewish religious works thought to be written c. 300 BC to 300 AD. They are distinguished by Protestants from the Deuterocanonical books (Catholic and Orthodox) or Apocrypha (Protestant), the books that appear in extant copies of the Septuagint from the fourth century on, and the Vulgate but not in the Hebrew Bible or in Protestant Bibles. [Source: Wikipedia]

Apocrypha scene: Fraud of the Priests of Bel

Pseudepigrapha Texts:
The Books of Adam and Eve -- translation of the Latin version
Life of Adam and Eve -- translation of the Slavonic version
Life of Adam and Eve -- translation of the Greek version (a.ka. The Apocalypse of Moses)
The Apocalypse of Adam
The Book of Adam
The Second Treatise of the Great Seth
1 Enoch (Ethiopic Apocalypse of Enoch)
1 Enoch Composit (inc. Charles, Lawrence & others)
2 Enoch (Slavonic Book of the Secrets of Enoch)
Enoch (another version)
The Book of Abraham
The Testament of Abraham
The Apocalypse of Abraham
The Story of Asenath
[Source: pseudepigrapha.com]

Selections from The Book of Moses
Revelation of Moses
The Assumption of Moses (aka: The Testament of Moses)
The Martyrdom of Isaiah
The Ascension of Isaiah
The Revelation of Esdras
The Book of Jubilees
Tales of the Patriarchs
The Letter of Aristeas
The Book of the Apocalypse of Baruch (aka: 2 Baruch)
The Greek Apocalypse of Baruch (aka: 3 Baruch)
Fragments of a Zadokite work (aka: The Damascus Document)
The Testament of Solomon

Old Testament Apocrypha

Apocrypha are works, usually written, of unknown authorship or of doubtful origin. Biblical apocrypha is a set of texts included in the Latin Vulgate and Septuagint but not in the Hebrew Bible. While Catholic tradition considers the texts to be deuterocanonical, Protestants consider them apocryphal. Thus, Protestant bibles do not include the books within the Old Testament but have often included them in a separate section. Other non-canonical apocryphal texts are generally called pseudepigrapha, a term that means "false writings". The word's origin is the Medieval Latin adjective apocryphus, "secret, or non-canonical", from the Greek adjective apokryphos ("obscure"), from the verb apokryptein ("to hide away"). [Source: Wikipedia]

Apocrypha scene: Heroism of Eleazar

1 Esdras
2 Esdras
1 Maccabees
2 Maccabees
3 Maccabees
4 Maccabees
Letter of Jeremiah
The Prayer of Azariah
Baruch [Source: pseudepigrapha.com]

Prayer of Manassas
Bel and the Dragon
Wisdom of Sirach
Wisdom of Solomon
Additions to Esther
Psalm 151

Biblical Scholars

There are number of archaeologists at work trying to find archaeological evidence to back up episodes and events in the Bible and the Torah and prove they are historical facts or at least historical probabilities or possibilities. Among the key events they are seeking evidence of are the Israelites escape from Egypt and settlement of Canaan and the rule of David and Solomon. Among the major voices in this field is Israeli archaeologist Adam Zertal, who claims to have found Joshua’s altar on Mount Ebla.

Israel Finkelstein, a respected authority on early Biblical history at Tel Aviv University, is known best for arguing that the events of the Bible are often more indicative of the time they were written, mostly during the reign of the Judean King Josiah (ruled 639 to 609 B.C.) than the time they are supposed to have taken place.

Robert Draper wrote in National Geographic: The once common practice of using the Bible as an archaeological guide has been widely contested as an unscientific case of circular reasoning---and with particular relish by Tel Aviv University's contrarian-in-residence Israel Finkelstein, who has made a career out of merrily demolishing such assumptions. He and other proponents of "low chronology" say that the weight of archaeological evidence in and around Israel suggests that the dates posited by biblical scholars are a century off. The "Solomonic" buildings excavated by biblical archaeologists over the past several decades at Hazor, Gezer, and Megiddo were not constructed in David and Solomon's time, he says, and so must have been built by kings of the ninth-century B.C.'s Omride dynasty, well after David and Solomon's reign. [Source: Robert Draper, National Geographic, December 2010]

Draper said many archaeologists question whether the obsessive scramble to prove the biblical narrative is a healthy enterprise. One of them, Tel Aviv University's Raphael Greenberg, flatly states, "It's bad for archaeology. What we're supposed to contribute is a point of view that isn't available from texts orpreconceived notions of history---an alternative vision of the past: relations between rich and poor, between men and women. Something richer, in other words, than just validating the Bible."

Image Sources: Wikimedia, Commons, Schnorr von Carolsfeld Bible in Bildern, 1860, except Timelines, Relevancy 22, Documentary Theory, Donsnotes

Text Sources: Internet Jewish History Sourcebook sourcebooks.fordham.edu “World Religions” edited by Geoffrey Parrinder (Facts on File Publications, New York); “ Encyclopedia of the World’s Religions” edited by R.C. Zaehner (Barnes & Noble Books, 1959); “Old Testament Life and Literature” by Gerald A. Larue, King James Version of the Bible, gutenberg.org, New International Version (NIV) of The Bible, biblegateway.com Complete Works of Josephus at Christian Classics Ethereal Library (CCEL), translated by William Whiston, ccel.org , Metropolitan Museum of Art metmuseum.org “Encyclopedia of the World Cultures” edited by David Levinson (G.K. Hall & Company, New York, 1994); National Geographic, BBC, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Smithsonian magazine, Times of London, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Lonely Planet Guides, Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

Last updated September 2018

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