Sorting by


Another Creation Story

In my previous post I cited some parallels to the story of Noah and the Flood, immortalized by none other than Russell Crowe (OK, I have to admit, I never saw the film) (but I did see Gladiator – on opening day!  I had a student who was writing a dissertation that had a chapter on gladiators…) – stories of the flood in the myths of the Ancient Near East.  There were also numerous parallels in different areas around the Mediterranean to the Genesis account of creation.   Here I cite the most famous one. I should say there is a rather large point to be made about these parallels, and it applies not only to the myths and legends of Genesis but also to the stories about Jesus in the New Testament (to forestall a question I’m sure to be asked, I use the term “myth” in reference to stories that focus on God’s actions in the pre- or non-historical past, such as the creation and the flood, and “legend” in reference to human stories [...]

2020-04-06T13:42:03-04:00July 8th, 2016|Hebrew Bible/Old Testament, Public Forum|

Other Myths of the Flood from the Ancient Near East

In response to my posts on the Pentateuch, several readers have asked about how other myths from other cultures of the Ancient Near East may have influenced the biblical writers (and the story tellers who passed along the traditions before them).   Among other things, other religions of the region had stories of creation and the flood that were very similar to what you can find in the book of Genesis.  What do we know about these? Here is what I say about two of the regional myths of the flood, again, in my bextbook The Bible: A Historical and Literary Introduction.   ******************************************************************   The Gilgamesh Epic In 1853 several fragments of a different ancient text were discovered in the ruined palace of ancient Nineveh.   The texts, also written in cuneiform script, were deciphered by George Smith.  Since then they have been recognized as containing one of the great epics of ancient literature, named after its lead character, a king of the city of Uruk in southern Mesopotamia named Gilgamesh.  Numerous other fragments of the [...]

2020-05-27T16:15:20-04:00July 6th, 2016|Hebrew Bible/Old Testament, Public Forum|

When Was the World Created? A Blast From the Past

  Now that I’ve been talking about the Pentateuch, including its first book, Genesis, I thought it might be appropriate to offer up a Blast From the Past.   Four years ago, on July 5, 2012, I posted this account of when Christians started thinking that the world was created (Genesis 1-2) in 4004 BCE, as you’ll find in your annotated editions of the King James Bible.  This is what I said:   Creation in 4004 BCE? In my textbook, the Introduction to the the Bible, I am including a number of “boxes” that deal with issues that are somewhat tangental to the main discussion, but of related interest or importance. Here’s one of the ones in my chapter on Genesis, in connection with interpretations that want to take the book as science or history. For a lot of you, this will be old news. But then again, so is Genesis. ************************************************************************************* In 1650 CE, an Irish archbishop and scholar, James Ussher, engaged in a detailed study of when the world began.  Ussher based his calculations [...]

2017-11-06T21:18:19-05:00July 5th, 2016|Hebrew Bible/Old Testament, Public Forum|

Other Literary Tensions in the Pentateuch

I have started a brief thread on the Pentateuch and why scholars think that it was not written by a single author – Moses or anyone else – but is composed of several sources later patched together.  In my previous post I started giving the reasons for thinking so, the literary tensions found in the opening chapters of Genesis.  I continue here with this theme.  Again, this is taken from my book The Bible: A Historical and Literary Introduction ******************************************************************* The literary inconsistencies of Genesis are not unique to these two chapters.  On the contrary, there are such problems scattered throughout the book.   You can see this for yourself simply by reading the text very carefully.  Read, for example, the story of the flood in Genesis 6-9, and you will find comparable differences.  One of the most glaring is this:  according to Gen. 6:19 God told Noah to take two animals “of every kind” with him into the ark; but according to Gen. 7:2 God told him to take seven pairs of all “clean animals” [...]

2020-04-03T03:32:16-04:00July 1st, 2016|Hebrew Bible/Old Testament|

Literary Tensions in the Creation Account of Genesis

In yesterday’s post I began to explain why scholars have thought that the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Hebrew Bible (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy), were not written by Moses, but later, and that they represent not a single work by a single author, but a compilation of sources, each of them written at different times.   The evidence for this view is quite overwhelming, and in the context of my textbook on the Bible, as in the context here, I didn’t really think it appropriate or useful to dig deeply into all the nuances and ins and outs.  Instead, I gave some of the prominent data.   Here is how I started to do that. ************************************************************* The internal tensions in the Pentateuch came to be seen as particularly significant.  Nowhere were these tensions more evident than in the opening accounts of the very first book, in the creation stories of Genesis chapters 1 and 2.   Scholars came to recognize that what is said in Genesis 1 cannot be easily (or at all) reconciled with [...]

2020-04-03T03:32:25-04:00June 28th, 2016|Hebrew Bible/Old Testament|

Who Wrote the Pentateuch? Early Questions of Authorship.

On to something different!  I want to move to a new blog topic for a while.  I’ve been talking about my new book – still being written! – about the Christianization of the empire – for a while, and it’s obviously the topic near and dear to me just now.  But variety is the spice of life. Several readers have responded to me about my response to the question of the sources behind the Pentateuch – the first five books of the Hebrew Bible (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy, also called, collectively, the “Torah” or the “Law” of Moses).   I thought it might be refreshing to say a few more things about these books and the question of who actually wrote them.  I had discussed some of this on the blog three years ago, when I was writing my textbook The Bible: A Historical and Literary Introduction.   Here I will lift a few sections from the book dealing with this fascinating and important topic. The question: Who wrote the Pentateuch?  Historically, it was always [...]

More on Camels and Genesis

I have received some interesting responses, both in comments on the blog and privately, about my post yesterday on domesticated camels in the land of Palestine. Some readers are (re-)convinced that you can’t trust the Bible for one blasted thing; others think that it’s just a picayune point since camels are not really much of a big deal in the narratives of Genesis. So maybe I should provide a bit of background and explain what I see to be the significance of this new finding. First, on camels. The word “camel” (Hebrew: GML) occurs twenty-four times in the book of Genesis, always in connection with the Patriarchs, and in contexts involving each of the big names: Abraham (only one time, 12:16 – God blessed him with lots of camels), Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph (again only one time, 37:25; he was taken to Egypt by a group of traders with a caravan of camels). The greatest concentration of references is in the story of Isaac and Rebecca in Genesis 24, but there are several references to [...]

2020-04-03T17:21:15-04:00February 6th, 2014|Hebrew Bible/Old Testament|

Camels and the Book of Genesis

Something different. A long time-member of the blog, Ron Taska, has sent this along to me. Biblical scholars for years have argued that the camels one finds in the patriarchal narratives of Genesis (Gen. 12-50) are anachronistic, since camels were not yet domesticated in the times in which the Patriarchs allegedly lived. (I’m one of those scholars who doubts whether the Patriarchs of Genesis are historical figures at all; but that’s another question.) Here is some recent scientific evidence that appears to support this older scholarly claim. (For reference: Abraham, the “father of the Jews” is usually dated to the 18th century BCE. If he lived.) If it's right, then this is one more piece of evidence (among many) that the narratives of Genesis are not historically accurate and were not composed any time near the dates of the alleged events they discuss, or even in the time of Moses (if he lived: 13th century). **************************************************************** TEL AVIV (Press Release)–Camels are mentioned as pack animals in the biblical stories of Abraham, Joseph, and Jacob. But [...]

2020-04-03T17:21:22-04:00February 6th, 2014|Hebrew Bible/Old Testament, Religion in the News|
Go to Top