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Secret Origins of the Bible

Tim Callahan (2002)


Nevertheless, the story of God's promise to Abraham is mythology and politically motivated mythology at that. To understand this consider the following anachronism: Abraham is said in Genesis 11:31 to have left the city of his fathers, "Ur of the Chaldees." Had the material on Abraham that we find in Genesis actually been written down either before the Israelites settled in Canaan or at least before the monarchy—had the legend actually been written by Moses—we would expect that Ur would be referred to as a city of the Sumerians (who actually built it) or, at the very least, as a city of the Akkadians who were the first Semitic rulers of Mesopotamia, or even the Amorites of Hammurabi's day, ca. 2100 BCE). The Chaldeans had not infiltrated the area around Ur until about 1100 BCE and may not have seized the city itself until ca. 800 BCE. They were not the masters of Mesopotamia until the collapse of the Assyrian empire (612 BCE). Thus, the reference to "Ur of the Chaldees" dates the writing as being at least later than 1100 BCE and possibly as late as 800 BCE. (i-ii)

That this material was itself subject to later editing can be seen in the J account of the covenant (Gen.15:1-21). In Gen.15:7 (KJV) God tells Abraham, "I am the LORD who brought you from Ur of the Chaldees...." Here again is the anachronism that dates from between 1100 and 800 BCE. The covenant as spelled out in Gen. 15:18 gives Abraham's descendants the land from the river of Egypt (or brook of Egypt, the wadi Al Arish at the eastern edge of the Sinai peninsula—not the Nile) to the Euphrates. This encompasses David's empire. In Gen. 17:8 (the E version) God only promises Abraham and his descendants, "all the land of Canaan." This discrepancy is but one of many indications that Gen. 15:18 was written after the establishment of David's empire as opposed to being prophetic of its extent. In other words, it was written after the fact as a "divine" justification of the right to hold that which had been taken by force of arms. (ii)

That the narrative at the end of 2 Kings was not only written after 561 BCE, but that it was edited much later, is shown by the spelling of the name of that greatest of Chaldean kings as Nebuchadnezzar. His actual name was Nabu-kudurri-usur. Thus, when his contemporaries Ezekiel and Jeremiah refer to him, he is called Nebuchadrezzar. The only exceptions to this are in Jeremiah 27 and 29, where the Chaldean king is called Nebuchadnezzar. When Jeremiah speaks of the fall of Jerusalem he calls the king Nebuchadrezzar. The replacement of the "r" in the fourth syllable with an "n" occurs only in a late form of the name, dating from the period of Greek influence after 331 BCE, the Greek version of Nabu-kudurri-usur being Nabuchodonosor. Thus, when Nebuchadnezzar pops up atypically in Jeremiah, it is a sign of later editing. The same is true, of course, in chapters 24 and 25 of 2 Kings. (1)

In Hebrew the words that are translated as "without form" and "void" are tohu and bohu, which, literally translated, are "chaos" and "emptiness." The deep, tehom, is related to tohu, and its intensive form (also its plural), tehomot, is cognate with Ti'amat, the Mesopotamian chaos dragon. Bohu is likewise related to a primeval chaos beast, as can be seen from its related forms, behom and behomot or Behemoth. In Job 40: 15-24 Behemoth is described as a powerful land beast with some characteristics of a hippopotamus, and Job 41 describes the sea dragon leviathan, or in Hebrew Levyatan. If we consider that the v can be as easily be represented by a w and that the w and the y are both semivowels, then the consonant skeleton would be L_T_N, the same as lotan, the Canaanite sea dragon killed by Baal. As such, Leviathan is synonymous with tehomot, the deep. The Leviathan/tehomot and Behemoth in Job constitute beasts personifying tohu and bohu, the chaos and emptiness of the original state of creation. (37-8)

Having humanized Enkidu, Shamhat gives him clothing, just as Yahweh makes clothing for Adam and Eve in Gen 3:21. But this is seen in Mesopotamian myth as a mark of being fully civilized rather than a loss of innocence. This is made clear in two Sumerian texts referring to Shakan, god of flocks (as quoted in Barto 1992, p. 55):
Shakan ... had not (yet) come out on dry land,
Humankind of those distant days
Knew not about dressing in cloth
Ate grass with their mouth like sheep,
Drank water from the water-hole (like animals). Humankind of those distant days
Since Shakan had not (yet) come out on dry land,
Did not know how to dress in cloth:
Hunankind walked about naked

Having dressed Enkidu, Shamhat leads him to the city, telling him, "You are wise, Enkidu, and now you have become like a god." This, of course, is echoed by the serpent telling Eve (Gen. 2:5b), " ... your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil." (49)

In conclusion then, we can see that the creation myths of Genesis were derived from many sources and that the different versions of the creation come from stories altered by succeeding peoples for political reasons. In his book, Slaying the Dragon, Bernard Batto refers to this process as "mythopoeic speculation." Thus the Akkadian story Atrahasis is replaced by the Babylonian Enuma elish. Yet both stories served as precursors for Genesis, Atrahasis for the J document and Enuma elish for P. We also see that we must often look beneath the surface of a biblical tale to see material that has been buried for religious and political reasons. The combat myth that was an integral part of Enuma elish, though edited out of Genesis 1, survived in fragments scattered among the Psalms and in Isaiah, as well as other books of the Bible. (54)

The word Nephilim—which may relate to the verb "to fell," thus meaning "bullies" or "tyrants", or to a fallen state—does not convey their gigantic stature. We know, however, that they were giants from the report of the spies first sent into Canaan (Num. 13:33), which is part of the J document:
And there we saw the Nephilim (the sons of Anak, who came from the Nephilim) and we seemed to ourselves like grasshoppers, and so we seemed to them.
This description not only confirms the view that the Nephilim were "giants in the earth" but demonstrates that this story was probably not originally part of the creation and flood myth, except to the degree that the Nephilim resemble the lullu of Atrahasis. Had this myth originally been part of a unified story then there would not have been any descendants of the Nephilim alive at the time of Moses, since the only humans to survive the flood were Noah and his family, all of whom, according to fundamentalists, were from the godly line of Seth. (63)

The various names given to the latter aboriginal people tell us a great deal about how they were viewed. That the Ammonites called them Zamzumim means that they spoke a language unintelligible to the Semites, since zamzum is, according to the Anchor Bible Dictionary, a nonsense word often used to refer to the sounds people make while eating. So just as the ancient Greeks thought that foreign speech sounded like "bar-bar," the noise of a bleating sheep—hence the word "barbarian"—so the name Zamzumim connotes strangers whose language sounds like unintelligible mouth noises. (161)

The allusion to the Book of Jasher brings us back once again to the miracle of Joshua's long day. As is so often the case, were this any other book of antiquity such a story would be seen as fanciful. Because it is the Bible, not only do its defenders assert the truth of the miracle, they assert as well that it's scientifically provable! Among other things they assert that astronomical calculations demonstrate a missing day out of the week the battle took place. (171)

Fortunately, Judges 4 is not the only source of information on the battIe. Judges 5, which consists of the Song of Deborah, gives us considerably more detail. Its claim to some historical validity is that it seems to be one the oldest bits of Hebrew literature in the Bible. While the rest of Judges is believed to have been written between 600 and 850 BCE, the Song may well have been written ca. 1125; that is to say that it might well have been written at the time of the Judges. One problem with it as a text is that its early Hebrew is difficult to translate. Hebrew scholars have compared the differences between the Hebrew of the Song of Deborah and the Hebrew of the rest of the Book of Judges to the difference between Latin and modern Italian. The meanings of as many as 70% of the key words of the text may be in doubt. (195-6)

[Gleason L.] Archer would have us believe that the evil spirit came from God in that Saul's alienation from him left him prey to Satanic influences. Thus, the evil spirit was actually from Satan and was said to come from God only in that God allowed it to happen. Yet according to the prophet Micaiah God can be the source of evil and deception, much as Zeus was went he sent a false prophetic dream to Agamemnon in the Iliad (1 Kgs.22:19-23):
And Micaiah said, "Therefore, hear the word of the LORD: I saw the LORD sitting on his throne, and all the host of heaven standing beside him on his right hand and on his left; and the LORD said, 'Who will entice Ahab that he may go up and fall at Ramoth-gilead?' And one said one thing and another said another. Then a spirit came forward and stood before the LORD, saying, 'I will entice him.' And the LORD said to him, 'By what means?' And he said, 'I will go forth, and will be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets.' And he said, 'You are to entice him, and you shall succeed; go forth and do so.' Now therefore behold, the LORD has put a lying spirit in the mouth of all these your prophets; the LORD has spoken evil concerning you."
There can be no doubt about what is happening here. Yahweh is presented in his heavenly court much the way the gods of Olympus are represented in Homer, and, as in Homer, Yahweh deliberately elicits a spirit to entice and deceive a mortal king. While Zeus sends a false dream to Agamemnon—and dreams were considered oracular—Yahweh puts a lying spirit in the mouth of Ahab's prophets. Put quite simply, before the Exile, the ancient Israelites saw Yahweh as the source of all things spiritual, good or bad. To the degree that Saul was truly historical his episodes of madncss, which sound like eithcr bipolar disorder (formerly called manic-depression) or periodic bouts of chronic depression, were seen by the people of his day as afflictions from God. (241-2)

The architecture and floor plan of the Temple were strikingly like those of temples that have been excavated at Tell Tainat, Emar, Ebla and Tell Munbaqa in Syria. Tell Tainat dates from the eighth century BCE, later than Solomon's Temple, but the others are from the Late Bronze Age (1550-1200 BCE). Other temples of this type, called "long room" temples, have been excavated in the ruins of the Canaanite cities of Hazor, Shechem and Megiddo, dating from the Middle Bronze Age II B (1750-1550 BCE). Earlier, simpler versions of this type of temple are also found in Turkey, including Troy (level II, not the Troy of the Iliad). These date from between 2000 and 3000 BCE. That the Temple was so similar to those of the Mesopotamian temples at Emar and Ebla, the Canaanite temples at Hazor, Shechem and Megiddo, and even a temple found at Troy naturally provokes the suspicion that the worship there also did not vary greatly from that in Canaanite temples. This is particularly the case when we consider the richness of animal and plant imagery in the Temple as described in 1 Kings. (289-290)

In ancient Athens the spring festival of Anthesteria was observed in much the same way. Pitch was smeared on the lintels and door-posts because of a destroyer that was abroad in the night, and the people chewed buckthorn as a purgative. Likewise, in the Babylonian Spring new year festival called Akitu the temple of Marduk was purged and purified by decapitating a sheep and smearing the walls of the temple with its blood much as the lintels were smeared with blood on the Passover. (295)

The Exile was a watershed event for Judaism. It forever severed any ties the worship of Yahweh had with the Canaanite pantheon, once and for all divorced the god from any explicitly acknowledged consort, and forced the Jews (the people of Judah) to see their god, not as a tribal deity bound to a certain territory and powerless outside it, but as the one and only true god. Obviously all of these changes did not occur immediately during or after the 49 years of captivity in Babylon. However the Exile set in motion those forces that created Jewish monotheism. (322)

A number of beliefs that flowed from this new monotheism were extremely important not only to later Judaism but to the formation of Christianity as well. These concepts are: the belief in eternal rewards or punishments in an afterlife based on the merit of one's life in this world, an afterlife that was seen by some Jews to include bodily resurrection; a belief that God is all good, therefore evil had to come from an opposing force, i.e. the Devil; the belief that in a future time a descendant of David would lead Israel to victory over its foes, resulting in the establishment of God's kingdom on earth; and finally the belief that Satan, leading the forces of evil, would one day be utterly destroyed by the forces of Yahweh in an apocalyptic war. Each of these concepts flows from the basic premise that God is all good. If God is good, another supernatural being must be the source and focus of evil. But despite the existence of evil in the world, a good god cannot forever tolerate evil. Therefore, God must only be biding his time until a final reckoning in which evil will be destroyed. History then is seen in terms of a cosmic war between good and evil, in which those who have chosen evil in this life go to the Devil's kingdom in the next, while those who have chosen God will go to his realm, Heaven. All of this will come to an end in a last battle in which the Devil and all his works are overthrown. After that God will establish his kingdom on earth, naturally led by Israel and naturally under the rule of a Davidic king. Those who have died will be reborn in new imperishable physical bodies. So the concepts of Heaven, Hell, resurrection, the Devil, messianism and millenarianism are inextricably linked. (322-3)

Canonical or not, however, portions of 1 Enoch, written in Aramaic, were found among the Dead Sea Scrolls and 1 Enoch is an important source of the Christian scriptures. Phrases from 1 Enoch were frequently lifted nearly verbatim by the writers of the Christian gospels, epistles and the Book of Revelation. The epistle of Jude even refers back to Enoch in vv. 14, 15:
"It was of these that Enoch in the seventh generation from Adam prophesied, saying "Behold, the Lord came with his holy myriads to execute judgment on all their deeds of ungodliness which they have committed in such an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things which ungodly sinners have spoken against him." The words of Enoch, who is never quoted in Genesis, are from 1 En. 1:9. Another allusion to 1 Enoch is found in Jude 6:
And the angels that did not keep their own position but left their proper dwelling have been kept by him in eternal chains in the nether gloom until the judgment of the great day. (330)

There are four basic overlapping clues to the dating of Daniel. These are: historical inaccuracies, anachronisms, language and the point at which the supposed prophecies of Daniel falter. (334)

Revelation is salted throughout with phrases and sentences from 1 Enoch. For example I En. 100:3 says, "the horse will walk up to the breast in the blood of sinners." Speaking of the carnage when the wine press of the wrath of God is trodden Rev. 14:20 says, "and blood flowed from the wine press as high as a horse's bridle, for one thousand stadia [approximately 200 miles]."Again, 1 En. 51:1 says of the end times:
[I]n those days shall the earth give back that which has been entrusted to it, and Sheol also shall give back all that which it receives and hell shall give back that which it owes.
And Rev. 20:13 says:
And the sea gave up the dead in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead in them, and all were judged by what they had done.
So John found both the scriptures of the MT [Masoretic Text] and 1 Enoch equally worthy as sources despite the very different fate of 1 Enoch from the others with regard to their eventual canonical status. (346-7)

Contrary to what most of us who grew up with a Christian background have been taught, the Jews of Roman times were not all waiting expectantly for the coming of the Messiah. Nor was the Messiah a major theme in the Hebrew scriptures. As William S. Green (1995) points out, the Hebrew word mashiyach, meaning one who is anointed or consecrated, which we Anglicize as "messiah," occurs only 38 times in the MT. Twice it is applied to patriarchs, six times (or possibly only five times) to high priests, once (or possibly twice) to Cyrus the Great of Persia; and the other 29 times it refers to Israelite kings such as Saul, David and David's descendants. One reason those who are of a Christian background tend to see all of the Jews as eagerly looking for the messiah is that Christian translators read messianic expectations into the OT. (347)

While the majority of the people of Judea were not waiting expectantly for a new David to miraculously appear, that hope was still cherished by certain communities. However, along with the warlike Davidic messiah of Isaiah and Micah, there was another being that could be called the Messiah. He appears in a portion of 1 Enoch probably written between 90 and 60 BCE. He is also described in 1 En. 46: 1:
And there was one who had a Head of Days.
And his head was white like wool.
And with him was another being whose countenance had the appearance of a man.
And his face was full of graciousness, like one of the holy angels.
And I asked the angel, who went with me and showed me all the hidden things, concerning the Son of man, who he
was and whence he was, and why he went with the Head of Days.
And he answered and said to me: "This is the Son of man, who hath righteousness, with whom
dwelleth righteousness, and who revealeth all the treasures of that which is hidden.
Because the Lord of Spirits hath chosen him.
And whose lot hath the preeminence before the Lord of Spirits in uprightness for ever."

Of this Son of man 1 En. 48:4 goes on to say:
He shall be a staff to the righteous whereupon to stay themselves and not fall.
And he shall be the light of the Gentiles
And the hope of those who are troubled of heart.

This sounds very much like the sort of messiah that Jesus was supposed to be, and the title "Son of man" also fits. It is ironic that a book written before the time of Jesus and seemingly predicting a Christ-like personage was excluded from the Christian canon, particularly when, as we have seen, its theology and even phrases taken from it almost verbatim were used in canonical works. (351-2)

This confusion about the name of the location on the coast of the sea of Galilee could be nothing more than a copyist's error. But this is not the the only geographical error in Mark. In Mk. 7:31 we are told that Jesus returned from the region of Tyre to Galilee through Sidon and the region of the Decapolis. This is a curious route indeed. Sidon is north of Tyre, and Galilee is south of Tyre. The Decapolis, a region of ten cities, is southeast of Galilee. So to get to Galilee, Mark has Jesus head north from Tyre to Sidon, when he should be heading south, then has him loop around to the southeast to enter Galilee by way of the Decapolis. Compounding this geographical problem is the fact that in Roman times there was no road from Sidon to Galilee. Obviously Mark has confused everything. He should have had Jesus start in Sidon, go south to Tyre, take the road from there to Galilee and go from Galilee to the Decapolis. Clearly Peter did not dictate Jesus' itinerary to Mark, unless we assume that it was dictated properly by Peter, but hopelessly muddled by Mark. But if that is the case, Mark is an unreliable witness, and the veracity of his manuscript is in serious doubt. Also such a mass of errors does not fit the image of an inspired writing. (359-60)

It is doubtful that the authors of either Matthew or Mark witnessed the Crucifixion, since the last phrase put in Jesus' mouth (Mt. 27:46, Mk. 15:34), "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" is a direct quote from Ps. 22:1. Nor was Luke a witness or even quoting one when he says that the last words spoken by Jesus were (Lk. 23:46), "Father, into thy hands I commit my spirit!" a virtual quote of Ps. 31:5, "Into thy hand I commit my spirit; / thou hast redeemed me, O Lord, faithful God." Only John refrains from putting snatches of the Jewish scriptures into Jesus' mouth, at least at the Crucifixion. However, Jn. 5:22 says, "The father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son," which mirrors 1 En. 69:27, "The sum of judgment was given to the Son of man." In Jn. 12:36, Jesus urges his followers to become "sons of light," which sounds like the "generation of light" in 1 En. 108: 11, and the War Scroll from Qumran, dated late in the first century BCE dealing with the war between the sons of light and the sons of darkness. John is not alone in quoting from 1 Enoch. In Mt. 19:28 Jesus speaks of a time when (KJV) "the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory," and 1 En. 62:5 refers to "When they see the Son of man sitting on the throne of his glory." There are more quotes from 1 Enoch in Matthew, as well as Luke and Acts. Only Mark, which has quoted Ps. 22:1, refrains from using 1 Enoch as a source. (362)

The word soteriological is derived from the Greek word soter, meaning "savior" or "deliverer." Soter was the surname of many of the Hellenistic emperors. Helms (1988, p. 1) points out that Apollonius of Tyana, who died ca. 98 CE, was noted for casting out demons, healing the sick, teaching the worship of one true god and the practice of charity, and was claimed by some of his followers to be the son of God. Also, a resolution in honor of Caesar Augustus passed by the Provincial Assembly of Asia Minor declared him both savior and god (Helms 1988, p. 24). That early Christians understood that the stories of the miraculous birth, and the death and resurrection of Jesus paralleled already existing myth and soteriological fiction is evidenced in Chapter 21 of the First Apology of St. Justin Martyr (CE 100-165):
And when we say also that the Word, who is First-begotten of God, was born for us without sexual union, Jesus Christ our teacher, and that He was crucified and died and rose again and ascended into heaven, we propound nothing new beyond what you believe concerning those whom you call sons of Zeus. For you know of how many sons of Zeus your esteemed writers speak: Hermes, the interpreting Word and teacher of all; Aesklepios, who, though he was a great healer, after being struck by a thunderbolt ascended into heaven; and Dionysus, too, who was torn to pieces; and Heracles, when he had committed himself to the flames to escape his pains; and the Dioscuri, the sons of Leda; and Perseus, son of Danae; and Bellerophon, who though of mortal origin rose to heaven on the horse Pegasus. For what shall I say of Ariadne, and those who, like her, have been said to have been placed among the stars? And what of your deceased emperors, whom you think it right to deify, and on whose behalf you produce someone who swears that he has seen the burning Caesar ascend to heaven from the funeral pyre?
That Justin Martyr saw the Christian assertions of the virgin birth, death and resurrection of Jesus in such a way that he could argue that "we propound nothing new" and that he could compare them to the myths of Hermes, Dionysus, Heracles and the defied emperors clearly indicate that he saw the mythic parallels, only asserting that the Christim myth was the true tale. (390-1)

Thus, it became known as the Field of Blood (just as the one in Acts was), says Mt.27:8 "to this day." As is typical of Matthew, the story ends in Mt. 27:9, 10 with a claim that all this has fulfilled a prophecy:
Then was fulfilled what had been spoken by the prophet Jeremiah, saying, "And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the price of him on whom a price had been set by some of the sons of Israel, and they gave them for a potter's field, as the Lord directed me:'
In his zeal to find a prophetic source the author of Matthew has once again tripped himself up. The only thing in Jeremiah that is anywhere close to the purchase of the field of blood is in Jeremiah 32, in which the prophet buys land near Anathoth from his cousin. Matthew is actually loosely quoting Zech. 11:12, 13 (KJV):
And I said unto them, If ye think good, give me my price; and if not, forbear. So they weighed for my price thirty pieces of silver. And the LORD said unto me, Cast them to the potter; a goodly price that I was prized at of them. And I took the thirty pieces of silver and cast them to the potter in the house of the LORD.
So Matthew takes the prophecy entirely out of context when applying it to Judas, creates the story of the Field of Blood and then ascribes the "prophecy"to the wrong prophet! (407-8)

Just as blood brotherhood rites are virtually universal, so too are ritual meals that closely resemble the Christian Eucharist. In the Roman world this appears to have been particularly true of the rites of Dionysus. Justin Martyr explained the prior existence of such ceremonies as demonic deception (First Apology, chapter 54):
The prophet Moses, then, was . . . older than all writers, and through him . . . it was predicted: ''A ruler will not depart from Judah nor the leader from His thighs, until He comes for whom it is reserved; and He will be the expectation of the nations, binding his foal to the vine, washing His robe in the blood of the grape." Therefore, when the demons heard these prophetic words they said that Dionysus had been the son of Zeus, and handed down that he was the discoverer of the vine, and they ascribe wine among his mysteries, and taught that, having been torn in pieces, he ascended into heaven.
The similarity of the Dionysian myth to that of Dionysus is heightened when we consider that Jesus said that the bread was his body and the wine was his blood, while the Titans who murdered Dionysus ate his flesh and drank his blood. (412)

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