Over decades, scholars have greatly failed to find confirmation of any aspect of Hebrew history as recorded in the Old Testament – prior to, say, the 5th century, when something a bit like real history comes into focus. The great holocaust described especially in the Book of Joshua, with all those cities laid waste and occasional young virgins spared - it was fictional, and I feel there is a comparable question as to why the OT authors would want to create this fictional 'holocaust' narrative. Also, why do the goyim want to have this stuff in their sacred book?
The Exodus? Forget it! Not a skeleton, not a pot, nor any trace of record in Egyptian archives confirms it: "Barring some significant new discoveries, his book closes the door on those seeking to find evidence of Israel in Egypt during the late Bronze period" - that is one recent scholarly work , The Religions of ancient Israel, A Synthesis of Parallactic Approaches’ by Ziony Zevit 2005 (p.88), alluding to the book Egypt, Canaan and Israel in Ancient Times by Redford, 1992.
That’s it. Finito. Over much of the 20th century, archaeologists were bending over backwards to claim that their science confirmed the adventures of God’s Chosen People. Now, finally, in this 21st century, they are being forced to admit that the Hebrews never left Canaan. They were the local residents. They started writing books to give themselves a ‘glorious past’ probably around 420 BCE, and that was once the Persian Empire had set up a temple to the One God (in the Persian religion) at Jerusalem. http://askwhy.co.uk/judaism/index.php And the Persian policy was, that they did not mind what the local residents called the one god.
Excavation of Northern Israel has found records of the Yahweh religion, over 11th-7th centuries BCE, together with his consort the goddess Asherath (Astarte?), and other ‘Baal’ local deities:
Literacy first appears in the 8th century BCE, on pots etc., but no schools have been found, as you might expect if there were scribes and long texts, etc. Hebrew was a Canaan-dialect language.‘The link between YHWH and Asherath was part of Israelite mythology… during the ninth to seventh centuries BCE, Israelites adored certainly one, but most likely a few – not many – goddesses’ (Z. Zevit, Religions of ancient Israel p.651)
So all those amazing genocide stories, in Book of Joshua etc, laying waste city after city, smiting all the locals with the edge of the sword, sometimes sparing young virgin girls - no such city-warfare is confirmed by the archaeological record, or by anyone else’s record of what happened. Not an arrowhead, not a helmet, nothing. They seem to have been just nightmare-pipedreams. The Hebrews did not enter into Canaan.
All the glory of the court of King Solomon totally refuses to show up in any historical-archaeological record: zilch. But, it seems those writing the books (the ‘holy scribblers’) did have access to the Persian court archives, of past history, so they could retro-construct some ancient real kings and empires. The Hebrew texts allude to the building of the temple in Jerusalem around 450 BCE as its ‘restoration’ or as the ‘2nd temple’ - to avoid the implication that they were given their monotheism by the Persian Zoroastrian religion – as in the stories of Nehemiah and Ezra.
Barnes Review Press are to be congratulated on producing this timely, light-hearted, easy-to-read book, which packs a punch because of the decades of real, scholarly work to which it alludes. Tiffany’s book gives a whole new meaning to Jeremiah’s phase ‘the false pen of the scribes’:
How can you say, 'We are wise, and the law of the Lord is with us? But behold. the false pen of the Scribes has made it into a lie.' (Jeremiah 8:8)
Isaiah 61:6: “But you shall be named the priests of Yahweh; men will call you the ministers of our God: you will eat the wealth of the nations.” While thus eating the wealth of nations, they are encouraged by God to lend money with interest: (Deut 23:20) “To a foreigner you may lend upon interest.” How very handy, to have a god who OKs usury.
The Book of Numbers gives us a big sum, of each of the twelve tribes counted, (just after emerging from Egypt) which all add up to 603,550. Phew! Hebrews used letter for numbers in counting, with no zero, and started doing that in Hellenistic times (copying from the Greeks). I would doubt whether they would have been able to do this big sum, prior to the 2nd century BCE. Quite apart from the absurdity of that vastly-exaggerated number (that 600k was only the young, fighting men, implying a total of over two million) - if you want to believe the thing happened at all, you’d have to go down to about 1% of that number. Sound familiar?
‘In my formative years I blindly accepted everything they told us about our ‘collective’ Jewish past: the Kingdom of David, Masada and the Holocaust: the soap, the lampshade, the death march, the six million.’ He ironically implies that none of Jewish history is reliable, and maybe we need this wider perspective. Do people like believing in the Holocaust, feel virtuous in believing in it, in its sheer impossibility, in the same way as Christians used to make themselves believe that Jonah could live inside a whale for three days? ‘If anything, archaeology refutes the historicity of the Bible’ (The Wandering Who? pp.175,141.)
Once the history fades away, we are left with the nightmare-horror stories of this genocidal God, ever-enraged and cursing everyone, like some ever-simmering volcano. One keeps turning the pages just to find who will get bumped off next, and what dire end they will meet. Richard Dawkins’ 2006 bestseller made the moral judgement:
One must surely agree.The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sado-masochistic, capriciously malevolent bully. (the God Delusion, p.51)
"And when the LORD your God brings you into the land which he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give you, with great and goodly cities, which you did not build, and houses full of all good things, which you did not fill, and cisterns hewn out, which you did not hew, and vineyards and olive trees, which you did not plant, and when you eat and are full, then take heed lest you forget the LORD…” Deut 6:10-14)
Why do Christians want this ghastly stuff in their ‘Holy Book’? I am grateful to John Tiffany’s book for expressing bewilderment on this issue.
PS A leading 'minimalist' bible historian is Thomas Thompson http://www.bibleinterp.com/opeds/critscho358014.shtml , where 'minimalist' means knocking a few centuries off accepted dates of composition of the OT books. Assaults on his integrity involve claims that the Protocols of Zion are his favourite reading! http://www.bibleinterp.com/articles/copenhagen.shtml - I guess we're all familiar with that tactic.