2011-12-20

Anthropologist’s analysis of the Bible and of Biblical Studies as a variant of the Bible’s myth

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by Neil Godfrey

In my previous post presenting a few comments by social anthropologist Philippe Wajdenbaum from his thesis Argonauts of the Desert I quoted his summary conclusion of a Claude Lévi-Straussian structural analysis of the Bible:

The Bible is a Hebrew narrative tainted with theological and political philosophy and inspired by the writings of Plato, one that is embellished with Greek myths and adapted to the characters and locations of the Near East. (p. 4)

To expand on that a little (with my own paragraph formatting and emphasis):

According to the results of my analysis, the Bible’s author(s) wanted to transpose — in the form of their own national epic — the Ideal State of Plato’s Laws, a political and theological project initiated in the Republic.

The biblical story, recalling the foundation of a twelve-tribe State that is endowed with divine laws which enable it to live ideally , seems to be inspired by Plato’s Laws, probably the least known to moderns of the philosopher’s dialogues. I will analyse all the similar laws between the two texts as well as their respective theologies, and will try to show that even biblical monotheism owes a debt to Plato.

To enhance this platonic utopia with narrative, the biblical author(s) used Greek sources — Herodotus serves as a source for myths and stories in ‘historical prose’. Then come the great Greek mythological cycles: the Argonauts, the Heraclean cycle, the Theban cycle and the Trojan cycle by such authors as Homer, Pindar and the Tragedians, whom I believe were sources of inspiration for the Bible. Its author(s) borrowed myths, split them up and transformed them according to need, yet traces were left, perhaps intentionally, of these borrowings.

In Genesis–Kings there exists an opposition between the twelve-tribe ideal State — a State governed only by laws, for which the plan is given by God to Moses and which is founded by Joshua — and the monarchy. The monarchy of the nations in Genesis and Exodus, and that of Israel in the books of Samuel and Kings, is one whose excesses will first bring Israel to division, and then to its eventual downfall.

The biblical story from Genesis to Kings is a coherent and unified literary work that can be analysed by itself — as Jacques Cazeaux does — without referring to the alleged sources of the texts, regardless of whether they be ‘Yahwist’ or ‘Elohist’, as the documentary hypothesis posits, or even Greek, as in my view. Whatever its sources and dating may be, the Bible is first and foremost a collection of books — extremely well written, and too rarely read! (p. 4)

I look forward to sharing a few of the details underpinning the above outline in future posts.

Anyone who has read ancient Greek literature and has been struck by the frequency with which they hear echoes of a line or episode in the Bible will, I believe, begin to find their curiosity whetted and satiated as they begin to read Wajdenbaum’s anthropological insights into the structural analysis of myths. (I also believe it is only a matter of writing another chapter to apply the same to the Gospels, but that’s just my view.)

But back to the expected response to such a thesis and Wajdenbaum’s approach and justifications:

The thesis of a Bible born of the Hellenistic era, one that was inspired freely but mainly by Greek literature, gives rise to doubtful reactions because it seems innovative and goes against dominant theories on the origins of the Bible. (p. 5)

External controls  (my favourites! 🙂

Thomas L. Thompson, Neils Peter Lemche and Philip R. Davies have raised the possibility of a Hellenistic dating of the Bible:

They start from the fact that the Bible only appears in history in the Hellenistic era with certainty, both in terms of manuscripts and of knowledge of the Jews and their religion by Greek and Roman authors. Nothing seems to indicate that the Bible may have existed prior to that period. (pp. 5-6)

Now that’s doing evidence-based history — the sort of approach I have been arguing should be applied to the New Testament literature. We can propose oral traditions but cannot test that proposal. According to external evidence the a priori position would be a second century provenance for many of the New Testament writings. That does not mean it needs to remain the final position, but it is a valid starting one.

Resistance

Philippe Wajdenbaum discusses the history of the approaches of ethnographers and anthropologists from the colonial era of the nineteenth century to modern times as background to his own approach to the western iconic text. He holds up a mirror for western audiences to contemplate:

When the ethnologist compares narratives of different tribes of the Americas and concludes that the same myth spread from tribe to tribe with each new speaker transforming it in his own way, it is unlikely that he/she will offend the descendants of the American Natives, who often discover their ancestor’s cultures through the works of ethnologists, as colonisation destroyed these cultures over five centuries. It is even more unlikely that he will offend his Western readers. No one will take offence to the ‘bird nester’ story of the Mythologiques [Lévi-Strauss’s 4 volume work] being called a myth, variants of which Lévi-Strauss found from one distant end of the American continent to another. In the same way, no one will be shocked to learn that the Germanic myth of Siegfried’s death is a variant of the Greek myth of Achilles’ death . . . . The difficulty of this work is in its confrontation with religious ideology, both Jewish and Christian, which still holds that the Bible is at least very ancient, if not altogether of divine origin.  (pp. 6-7, my emphasis here and in all other quotes)

How is an anthropologist to respond to the cultural resistance to his inquiry?

As a social anthropologist it is my role to take into account the extremely strong resistance a comparative analysis of the Bible with Greek literature will provoke in some quarters; which may explain why a deep comparative analysis of the Bible with Plato’s Laws has not been done before. (p. 7)

Wajdenbaum in the body of his thesis offers a critical analysis of the theories of the emergence of the Bible.  But in his introduction he underlines

the religious bias that has kept biblical studies in a closed circle; most scholars working in this field are believers, and the most important paradigms still given credit today have been fabricated by theologians, mostly Protestant . . . .

The core belief generating this resistance:

Even though there has been an evolution in recognition of the mythical character of some biblical narratives . . . they are still thought of as coming from authentic traditions proper to Israel. The idea of a Bible having borrowed its main themes from the Greeks goes against the belief of a divinely revealed text, or of its authentic and original character; the belief that there is something unique in the Bible, something unprecedented, precisely unprecedented by the Greeks. It must be immediately qualified that the biblical text is original and unique, yet its originality and uniqueness derive from how the narratives, most of them coming from the Greek tradition, have been assembled to form a unified and coherent fiction. (p. 7)

Biblical Criticism is a variant of the Biblical Myth

Biblical criticism is a new version of the biblical myth:

. . . I will show how biblical criticism has become a new version of the biblical myth — its continuation, that has allowed it to remain almost untouchable until the present, even though biblical criticism took the form of scientific speech that shattered religious dogmas. ‘Any myth consists of all of its variants’ is a fundamental rule that I apply. (p. 7)

That fundamental rule derives from Lévi-Strauss. Lévi-Strauss argued that interpretations of myths are neither true nor false but rather are new versions of the myth. Thus Freud’s interpretation of ‘Oedipus complex’ is not an interpretation that explains the hidden meaning of the myth found in Sophocles’ play but a new version of the myth itself.

Thus as an anthropologist Wajdenbaum

will consider biblical criticism’s hypotheses in the same way: the Yahwist and the Deuteronomist, objects of numerous publications, are mythical characters in the same sense as Moses and Josiah. Indeed, the former, although he existed, came to replace the latter in the modern version of the myth of the Bible’s origins. (p. 8)

From the perspective of a social anthropologist Wajdenbaum approaches the Bible as a ‘total social fact’ — that is, a fact that cannot be reduced to one of its aspects, whether religious, economic or social. As a social fact the Bible is more than its contents. It is the foundation of both Judaism and Christianity.

Historical studies have given us an evolutionary understanding of the relations between Christianity and Judaism. But Wajdenbaum’s anthropological study opens up another basis for seeing the Bible as a Hellenistic book. If this is so,

then Judaism and Christianity both developed in the Grec0-Roman and Mediterranean worlds, and both share Hellenic and platonic roots. Neither of them recognises this common background, hidden by their shared belief in the divine inspiration of the Scriptures. (p. 8)

Or, as PW clarifies elsewhere, even those who reject the belief in divine inspiration nonetheless share the belief in the Bible as a very ancient text of “authentic traditions proper to Israel”.

Symbolic violence at its paroxysm

The Bible is at the core of two religions, yet it appears that religion may not be a ‘response to a need of spirituality’ but a very efficient instrument of control of one social class over another. As per Pierre Bourdieu, the use of sacred texts and rituals confers legitimacy upon a dominant class over lower classes. This legitimacy hides a symbolic violence, meaning that it reproduces the vision of the dominant class from generation to generation by using ‘pious lies’, transmitted by a pedagogic authority. This never-manifested symbolic violence is at its paroxysm in the absolute denial of the Greek cultural origins of the Judea-Christian religion. The demonstration of that origin is quite easy, whereas the most difficult part was the conception of the very idea of a Bible inspired by the Greeks, since scholarship on every level — from school to universities, both secular and religious — had excluded this possibility. (pp. 8-9)

How aptly the same can surely be said, I think, of the New Testament’s Christ myth.

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23 Comments

  • ROO BOOKAROO
    2011-12-20 12:52:51 UTC - 12:52 | Permalink

    I am far from convinced. On the contrary, all those naked assertions smell of the application of a marxist ideology to the origin of the Bible which seems forced and arbitrary for the sake of constructing a new theory. I suspect a scam. Perception of resemblances from comparisons are not necessarily authentic parallels that imply direct influences.

    In her book on Akhenaten (1940), Savitri Devi had issued a warning, when comparing myths, about assuming influences after detecting parallels: “Without systematically denying the possibility of such early influences, it seems to us that one should not overestimate them. Parallels are easy, and any two solar symbols, if not too far-fetched, are bound to have something in common.”

    The crucial problem faced by the huge claim of a hellenistic origin of the Hebrew Tanakh is this: What value can be ascribed to some similarities detected between the first books of the Bible and ancient Greek myths?

    First, are those parallels accurate, or just weak resemblances?

    Second, “proof” remaining unattainable in history, even strong similarities are not enough evidence of real influences. Can it be shown that those perceived parallels have resulted from a direct, intentional influence?

    And how and where? A “demonstrable borrowing” requires a historical “bridge” for effective communication and transfer of ideas between two different cultures.

    Invoking Levi-Strauss or the marxist theory of Pierre Bourdieu is not enough. And it is a bit far-fetched, if not absurd, to use the tired Freudian argument that a strong denial is proof of the veracity of the interpretation. All this smacks of obsolete ideology in social sciences.

    It’s going to be interesting to see if further presentation of this theory will effectively demonstrate the “obvious connections” assumed between both Greek and Hebrew myths.

    • 2011-12-20 16:24:07 UTC - 16:24 | Permalink

      I think you should have written Marxist in all caps just to make it even scarier.

      • ROO BOOKAROO
        2011-12-20 20:01:56 UTC - 20:01 | Permalink

        OK for one cap, but “all caps” makes no sense. Not scarier, but more incongruous and obsolete.

        French intellectuals following WWII were bathing in a cult of idealized Soviet Russia and paying reverence to the “great” thinkers of communism was the fashion, essentially Marx, and beyond him, Hegel and his triumph of the Spirit. All this mixed with Freudianism and echoes of the existentialism of Heidegger and the phenomenology of Husserl.
        Once an able young academic had digested this 20th-century French gulash and was able to discourse at great length on any subject in a hermetic style that very few academics could understand, he had the formula for being labeled a great French “thinker” whose reputation could easily become international. The less understandable, the more successful. Tony Judt (he of NYU) has analyzed this gestation of the French intellectual, whose final product was a fabrication of artificial, newly-minted abstract concepts, served in a cloying and dense prose.
        The big dividend was that such a “thinker” could be taken seriously by a lot of American academics, always happy to find a new subject for production of papers and new books, an absolute necessity in the system of tenure in US academia.
        Levi-Strauss also fell in the same mould, if not with the same sources of inspiration for his so-called structuralism. He spent a very short time, a matter of weeks, months at most, with his Brazilian Indians, could not speak their language, but got enough inspiration to write about them for decades. This was an anthropology based in library study. And his analysis of myth-making was of the same style.

    • 2011-12-20 17:03:35 UTC - 17:03 | Permalink

      Invoking Levi-Strauss or the marxist theory of Pierre Bourdieu is not enough. And it is a bit far-fetched, if not absurd, to use the tired Freudian argument that a strong denial is proof of the veracity of the interpretation. All this smacks of obsolete ideology in social sciences.


      I don’t know why one might think Philippe Wajdenbaum is simply “invoking” Levi-Strauss or that he at any point “uses the tired Freudian argument that a strong denial is proof”. Do you have any problems with the results or methods of Levi-Strauss’s structural analysis of the myths of American Indians?

      PW writes on pp. 11-13:

      “Had the hypothesis of Greek influence been wrong, the findings of parallels would have stopped quickly and I would have had to admit that they were indeed due to chance. But it was not the case, to my great surprise, and to my greatest intellectual satisfaction. The hypothesis has been confirmed by experience, in ways I could never have imagined. . . . The borrowing from the Greeks and the Hellenistic dating are the only ways to explain the presence of these parallels. . . .

      When I started this research I thought that [oral transmission] was at work between Greece and the Near East, and therefore any similarity that I would find would be due to a diffusion of myths based on oral transmission. But we do not know much about oral transmission in antiquity. In Greece . . . professional musicians and tellers told myths. Should we believe the same holds for the Near East? Michael Astour has shown . . . that Greeks and Phoenicians were in contact at least since the Mycenaean era. . . . But scholars such as Astour, Cyrus Gordon and Martin L. West tend to think that this diffusion from the East to the West can explain both the Semitic elements in Greek mythology and Greek parallels with the Bible, the latter being exclusively Semitic according to them. This is a vicious circle in which comparative studies are stuck. These writings [Hellenosemetica (1965), Before the Bible (1962) and The East Face of Helicon (1997)] have been tremendous sources for finding parallels, but they rarely consider the possibility of a Greek influence on the East . . . .

      How to apply the structural method, developed for oral myths, to a written text like the Bible? . . . The problem does not come from the method, but from the idea that the Bible itself is a report of oral traditions, arranged by scribes. This supposition is not verifiable. We only have the Bible, which is a written and coherent text. . . . The hypothesis of a single writer, already suggested by Spinoza, is rarely followed by biblical scholarship. Classical scholars recognize that Herodotus wrote the nine books of his Historia and that Plato wrote at least twenty-eight dialogues. Herodotus and Plato had assistants, surely, yet they were able to conceive of and supervise literary works of that size. Why would the same not hold true for the Bible?”

      I have already discussed a couple of details and specifics of method from Dr Wajdenbaum’s book and they are linked at the bottom of my post. The thesis surveys the application to Judeo interests of Greek myths in the broad diachronic sweep as well as the intricacies of the synchronic details along the way.

      My earlier reading of Jan-Wim Wesselius had sections of interest but also left me with as many questions as answers (I posted here a few times on his work some time ago).

      I also posted on Sara Mandell and David Noel Freedman who wrote one of the first general studies of the possible relationship between Herodotus and Primary History (Genesis to 2 Kings) and that lays many fascinating foundations that I would like to post more on some time.

      I am beginning to think of Wajdenbaum’s work as going quite some way towards answering questions that had long bugged me. I had been looking for intertextuality and not finding it at all where I expected it or thought it should appear. But the anthropological structural analysis does appear to explain so much more.

  • 2011-12-20 14:01:37 UTC - 14:01 | Permalink

    They start from the fact that the Bible only appears in history in the Hellenistic era with certainty, both in terms of manuscripts and of knowledge of the Jews and their religion by Greek and Roman authors. Nothing seems to indicate that the Bible may have existed prior to that period.

    The technology of writing spread throughout the Mediterranean world as a harmonious development. Alphabets were developed. Writing surfaces were developed. Pens and inks and related implements were developed. Formats and conventions were developed. Written works were distributed and shared. Excellence was observed and emulated. Scribes were trained and subsidized.

    If the Pentateuch was created around the same time as Plato’s Republic, the coincidence did not happen because the writers of the Pentateuch had read and emulated The Republic. Rather, the coincidence happened because writing throughout a huge geographic region had developed sufficiently that written works of such length and quality had become achievable standards at that time in many,dispersed places.

    • ROO BOOKAROO
      2011-12-21 07:07:58 UTC - 07:07 | Permalink

      And then, once the mythical stories are written by local, vastly separated scribes, and then examined by scholars in libraries 2 to 3,000 years later, no wonder that such modern scholars discover similarities between distinct myths. If you look at those myths hard enough, comparisons will easily point to similarities between myths. There are parallels in any set of myths, especially foundation or creation myths, and the “structural method” won’t have any trouble identifying them. How can this prove real, direct influences? It is easy to talk of “oral tradition”, “diffusion”, “trade routes,” and happily discover “both the Semitic elements in Greek mythology and Greek parallels with the Bible”, and even realize that studies by other scholars contain “tremendous sources for finding parallels”, So we’ll find parallels galore between the Pentateuch and myths from Persia, Assyria, then Egypt, and why not now Greece?
      In the recent controversy concerning the myths of the Christian Gospels, some Egyptologists have seen the origins of the Virgin birth or the Resurrection in the ancient Egyptian myths of Horus, Osiris and Isis. Not so, according to classical historians, who have found the same structural features in widely known Greek myths. Comparative mythology is a free-for-all game, and parallels are too easy to discover.

      • 2011-12-21 14:10:10 UTC - 14:10 | Permalink

        So Levi-Strauss wasted his effort and proved nothing when he studied the myths of American Indians?

        • RoHa
          2011-12-21 16:31:24 UTC - 16:31 | Permalink

          So Levi-Strauss wasted his effort and proved nothing when he studied the myths of American Indians?

          He proved his jeans were ideal for roaming the West.

        • ROO BOOKAROO
          2011-12-21 16:45:21 UTC - 16:45 | Permalink

          Levi-Strauss was not trying to “prove” anything, but to describe the internal structure of, for instance, Brazilian Indians’ society. He relied hugely on data provided by other field researchers, not unlike James Frazer. He was interested in the family relationships between members of the direct family and the extended family, the theory of “kinship”. He certainly didn’t search for “influences” and “derivations”.
          Same with myths: he wanted to describe the inner structure of myths, and discovered that, at a high enough level of abstraction, most myths are the “same”, that they obey to deeply rooted mental “laws” or mechanisms, similar to linguistics. This was the time, too, when Chomsky was discovering his own “universal grammar” of the human mind. In that sense, Levi-Strauss’s theory of myths was not too far from the innate ideas that Jung called archetypes produced by the deepest levels of the “collective unconscious”. No need to discover historical influences, but instead to spot inside a myth the profound hidden mental sources of the story.

          All this literature is thoroughly mixed with an enormous quantity of high-falutin, high-sounding, newly-minted abstractions, an appeal to all the great minds of European and classical culture, very much in the tradition of European philosophy, which renders the text impenetrable and “profound” looking. This also justifies the huge quantity of American academic energy devoted to getting “research” grants (with expense-paid foreign trips) to decrypt all this jargon or to demystify it. “Structuralism” was later outdone by French “deconstructionism”, an even more fascinating game with all kinds of intellectual tricks, which became the new rage in American academia.

          It is easy to be caught in this French game, and quite a few American scholars have denounced an inherent intellectual legerdemain. Alan Sokal (a NYU professor) is a well-known instance, with a full critique published in “Fashionable Nonsense: Postmodern Intellectuals’ Abuse of Science” (1998), where he denounced the French predilection for abstruse concepts related to no empirical experience — a distant descendant of medieval scholasticism. Tony Judt (he too of NYU) shared the same evaluation of the spurious constructions of French intellectualism, with his “Past Imperfect: French Intellectuals, 1944-1956,” (1992), and “The Burden of Responsibility: Blum, Camus, Aron, and the French Twentieth Century” (1998). And there are quite a few more skeptics.
          No wonder that Philippe Wajdenbaum is going to discover a multitude of parallels between Hebrew myths and ancient Greek ones, and if he had studied Egyptology, he might have extended this search for similarities to ancient Egyptian myths, too! What structuralism is never going to “prove” are influences from one culture to the next, connections or derivations. The producing engine of all those myths lies in the “deepest” levels of the human mind, producing the same kind of myths all over. All this assumes that the “human mind” is the same in all cultures, ancient or modern. A proposition that not all historians accept uncritically,

          • 2011-12-21 17:56:43 UTC - 17:56 | Permalink

            Okay, fair enough to a point since I my rejoinder was over generalized — though your reply was also sweeping in more than what is to the point, too 🙂 . Levi-Strauss could identify the way a particular myth, the bird nester, made its way from the South American continent to north-western America. My understanding is that some of the aboriginal/native Americans are able to trace ancestral relationships through similar studies.

            Is there nothing in here that might be applied to the study of western myths?

            (I am surprised that you seem to know how shabby is PW’s thesis without having read it, by the way. Or have you read it?)

            • ROO BOOKAROO
              2011-12-21 21:52:49 UTC - 21:52 | Permalink

              No, I haven’t and I won’t. I leave this task up to you, and giving us a nice summary. What I did was denounce the cultural environment where this thesis came from, and how this kind of work is produced by spates of French-inspired intellectuals, a milieu which you will never know (and the better for you). Once trapped by Levi-Strauss or Derrida, very few ever escape from their mental prison.

              This Philippe Wajdenbaum had to produce a PhD thesis, and he chose to latch on to Levi-Strauss and do his so-called “anthropological” research in the quiet library of his Belgian university. All the quotes mentioned by you provide no concrete data, only abstract ruminations on methodology. I do not doubt that he has found a multitude of parallels between the Pentateuch and ancient Greek myths. As I mentioned, I am sure that he would do so if he had the background to tackle ancient Egyptian or Assyrian myths.
              So, once you’ve done your own survey, we’ll be happy to read about all those parallels. And then what? How will it affect our understanding or enjoyment of those primitive myths in the Pentateuch?

              Just for information’s sake, in the area of real anthropology, it is worth noting that Levi-Strauss is considered a little bit passé, except when he is used for literary analysis with the label of “anthropological” research.
              I am willing to bet that we won’t get much more light on the Pentateuch from the learned pages of this Belgian PhD thesis. This sounds very much like another academic exercise. They’re usually put on shelves and never looked up again. Every university has thousands of them.

              • ROO BOOKAROO
                2011-12-21 22:05:24 UTC - 22:05 | Permalink

                P. S. And if I had time for some serious reading, I’d rather invest it in reading all the works of Maccoby, Burton Mack, G. A. Wells, John P. Meier, John Spong, Paula Fredriksen, Samuel Brandon, Thomas Thompson, or Christopher Hitchens (much more fun than any PhD!), Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins.

              • 2011-12-22 11:54:18 UTC - 11:54 | Permalink

                I like some of the names on your reading list. You will no doubt be interested to learn that one of them Thomas Thompson, is given special thanks by Philippe Wajdenbaum in his book for having “kindly accepted an invitation to ask as the examiner of my thesis, and the present book is the result of our encounter.”

                I wonder what Thomas Thompson would make of your views.

                Just realized you overlooked an earlier question I was wondering about:

                Levi-Strauss could identify the way a particular myth, the bird nester, made its way from the South American continent to north-western America. My understanding is that some of the aboriginal/native Americans are able to trace ancestral relationships through similar studies.

                Is there nothing in here that might be applied to the study of western myths?

              • 2011-12-22 10:33:46 UTC - 10:33 | Permalink

                Do you have the same denunciatios to make of Martin West’s East Face of Helicon?

                Do you also denounce all those scholarly works that study the influences of Mesopotamian and Egyptian culture upon the Bible?

                Are those who see that the biblical flood story is related to the Mesopotamian epic equally fatuous? Or those who find Akhenaton’s hymns echoed in the Psalms? etc?

      • 2012-01-20 02:56:33 UTC - 02:56 | Permalink

        And that shows all the more how the myth is simply recycled. The Bible is 90% myth meant to illustrate a real theology, which is here today: http://rssb.org/
        http://www2.xlibris.com/bookstore/bookdisplay.aspx?bookid=57180

  • Michael W. N.
    2011-12-20 18:32:35 UTC - 18:32 | Permalink

    “Thomas L. Thompson, Neils Peter Lemche and Philip R. Davies have raised the possibility of a Hellenistic dating of the Bible…”

    The nuances are also noteworthy. Lemche, who warns against a pan-Hellenism as a substitute for the old “pan-Babylonism,” has recently argued that “the idea of the ‘Endprodukt’ coming from a special period says little about the date of its individual parts.”

    http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/09018328.2011.568210

    The idea seems to be that the Pentateuchal stories rely on traditions with a very old history of their own.

    • 2011-12-20 18:48:35 UTC - 18:48 | Permalink

      PW “responds” on pages 4-5 with:

      Whoever authored the Bible seems to have had access to reliable archives about the kings of Israel and Judah, which are regularly referred to in 1 and 2 Kings. Going back into the past, starting from these historical characters and events, from the fall of Jerusalem and the deportation of the Judean elite to Babylon, the Bible’s author(s) created a masterful fiction . . . .

      Davies has written of his views on how the various books in the bible came to be authored by rival schools often in dialogue with one another. Thompson has suggested similar ideas, I think. And I have beside me a work arguing that the final “Priestly” redactor wove details throughout the disparate works to make them all add up to a nice 4000 years from Adam to the Maccabean dedication of the Temple.

      I have had a hard time being strongly persuaded by other arguments till now that Primary History had a single author. But I’m willing to give it another go.

      • Michael W. N.
        2011-12-21 18:03:54 UTC - 18:03 | Permalink

        Thanks a lot for promptly explaining the position of the author. This book really seems to bring in a huge number of big topics. The volume you referred to in “Explaining (the Gospel) Myths” (2011/05/25) seems a fascinating read as well. Philippe Guillaume argues that the Biblical Chronology came at the end and not at the beginning of the redactional process of the books that were included in it: “The Chronography was not created during the 6th century BCE but three centuries later in the Alexandrian chicken-coop of the Muses, where it fed on bookworms.”

        You wrote that the redactor made the details “add up to a nice 4000 years.” I have long been looking for a reference on this, and would be very grateful if you could cite the work in question.

  • 2011-12-21 18:21:51 UTC - 18:21 | Permalink

    To address a couple of points that have surfaced above —

    I am wondering how much francophobia is infusing some of the posts above. As for postmodernism I have expressed my views here more than once. And regarding the use of mumbo-jumbo language designed, presumably, to impress, I have never seen any need to go beyond “Social Sciences as Sorcery” as an aide to recognizing the practice despite the similar works written since.

    But I must also offer a couple of sentences in response to the derogatory reference to “marxist”. Marxism has contributed enormously to an understanding of society and to historical and other cultural (e.g. literary) studies about society and its cultural productions. One does not have to be a Red or Stalinist to acknowledge this. Social classes and “class cultures” are clearly a reality and I think Marxism has contributed enormously to an understanding of the way society works, even if it is not the definitive explanation. (Will there ever be one?)

  • Michael Slocum
    2012-04-04 03:26:14 UTC - 03:26 | Permalink

    Interesting points. Are we ruling out that the similarities in Old Testement Stories and Greek Myth could come from a shared ancestral culture? After all, the flood of Deucalion and Noah was also that of the Epic of Gilgamesh. It’s likely there is an even older underlying tale of the flood.

    If that’s the case, aren’t we arguing chicken and egg? Multiple cultures have adopted these ancient stories which were finally more or less arrested in their mutations by the advent of widespread litteracy (at least in the priestly and perhaps aristocratic clastes) and the codifying of the texts.

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