2020-06-07

The Hebrew Bible Composed in the Hellenistic Era: Dr. Robert M. Price & Russell Gmirkin – MythVision Podcast

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by Neil Godfrey

Vridar posts on Russell Gmirkin’s books discussed in the podcast:

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2 thoughts on “The Hebrew Bible Composed in the Hellenistic Era: Dr. Robert M. Price & Russell Gmirkin – MythVision Podcast”

  1. [As seen on the internets] An argument about a fatwa that says Jesus was a Jew because he was from the Bani Israel while calling for the hatred of Jews ie the Bani Israel.

    [A reply below that says] This fatwah is an expression of a problem Islam has in general: Judaism must somehow be true, but also false for Islam to be true. A perfect God has to have chosen a people, but then have made a bad choice because those people betrayed him and corrupted his scriptures (for some reason)

    [Then below that a cut-and-pasted Amazon book review of Gmirkin enters the bar.]

    This book review could really make your head spin!

    Customer Review [Amazon] Laura Knight-Jadczyk 5.0 out of 5 stars The Genie is out of the bottle! Reviewed in the United States on October 8, 2015 Old Testament, is probably the most successful literary creation of all time; and yet, we do not know its author. This was, it seems, by design, and as a result, for about two millennia, people have claimed that it was “written by God” and every word in it is truth, or Truth.

    But in recent years, there has been a growing body of research that demonstrates that this is not exactly the case: that the OT is based on the other literature that was available at the time it was written.

    Years ago while researching the Hittites and their possible relationship to the patriarch, Abraham, I was reading Trevor Bryce’s book “Daily Life of the Hittites” and was slightly electrified with his short discussion about the possible/probable relationship between the Epic of Gilgamesh and Homer’s Odyssey. That’s a can of worms since some of the correspondences are apparently very close to word-for-word. Who influenced who and when and where?

    Time went by and I went through all the works of John Van Seters in his search for the History of Israel and Abraham. In his book, “In Search of History”, he discussed the relationship of the Israelite history to the historical texts of the ancient Near East and Greece, noting that, while we have many texts from the Near East with historical content, only the Greek histories parallel the biblical histories in their distance from the past that is being described. He noted at the time that there were numerous agreements between the substance and style of some of the OT books and works of Greek historians, particularly Herodotus. However, he didn’t go into this in detail and I recall reading it and nodding vigorously because I had noticed the same things.

    In 2002, Jan-Wim Wesselius wrote “The Origin of the History of Israel” wherein he argues convincingly that the structure of the OT from Genesis to 2 Kings is modeled on the Histories of Herodotus. He points out the striking parallels between the key figure of Joseph – who is the one who got the Israelites into Egypt in the first place – and King Cyrus, the founder of the Persian Empire. Some of these parallels are so precise that there is no wiggle room for evading the obvious borrowing. Further, there is amazing duplication of the genealogy of the patriarchs and the Persian-Median royal house, the most striking of which exist between the figures of Moses and King Xerxes. The main subjects of the stories about the two of them are that a leader is summoned by the divinity to bring an enormous army into another continent across a body of water as if on dry land in order to conquer somebody else’s land. In both cases, the conquest ends badly, with a horrific siege, though in the case of Xerxes, it was within his lifetime, and in the case of the Israelites, it was when the Babylonians came much, much later.

    Following Wesselius, in 2006, along came Russell Gmirkin’s “Berossus and Genesis, Manetho and Exodus”, the book I’m reviewing here at long last.

    Gmirkin argues the theory that the Hebrew Pentateuch was composed in its entirety about 273-272 BCE by Jewish scholars at Alexandria that later traditions credited with the Septuagint translation of the Pentateuch into Greek. The primary evidence is the obvious literary dependence of Gen. 1-11 on Berossus’ Babyloniaca (278 BCE) and the dependence of the Exodus story on Manetho’s Aegyptiaca (c. 285-280 BCE), and the geo-political data contained in the Table of Nations. These three pieces of evidence are almost slam-dunk evidence of dependence.

    Gmirkin theorizes that a number of indications within the text pointed to a provenance of Alexandria, Egypt for at least some parts of the Pentateuch. He points out that the many texts that would have to have been consulted to produce such a history probably were available only there. I don’t see Wesselius in Gmirkin’s bibliography and that is a bit surprising because it seems to me that their ideas dovetail nicely except that Wesselius proposes an earlier date for the composition. I think that with the evidence presented by Gmirkin, that date is going to have to be revised, but I don’t think Wesselius will mind!

    What is clear is that the OT author not only used Herodotus for his structure, he was in dialogue with Berossus and Manetho, ESPECIALLY Manetho and his derogatory ethnography of the Jews. Obviously it was seen that a compelling, apologetic history needed to be written that out-did every other apologetic history that was being produced during those times and that is probably what inspired the author to use the techniques he did: borrowing from the many texts available in Alexandria at the time.

    That the Pentateuch was composed at almost the same date as the alleged Septuagint translation, provides compelling evidence for some level of communication and collaboration between the authors of the Pentateuch and the Septuagint scholars at Alexandria. The late date of the Pentateuch, as demonstrated by literary dependence on Berossus and Manetho, has two important consequences: the definitive overthrow of the chronological framework of the Documentary Hypothesis, and a late, 3rd century BCE date for major portions of the Hebrew Bible which show literary dependence on the Pentateuch.

    My own thoughts about this startling (and compelling) argument are that much of the OT was composed in Greek and only later translated into Hebrew and the Hebrew texts were corrected and fiddled with a bit which is why they no longer exactly match up with the LXX, NOT the other way around. It seems to me that the origins of the Masoretic text lie in a re-writing and Semiticizing of the “translated” Septuagint.”

    Since Gmirkin wrote this book, more and more evidence has been adduced that supports and augments his original work. In 2011 there was Bruce Louden’s “Homer’s Odyssey and the Near East” where he shows that Genesis is in dialogue with the Odyssey. Genesis features the same three types of myth that comprise the majority of the Odyssey: theoxeny, romance (Joseph in Egypt), and Argonautic myth (Jacob winning Rachel from Laban). The Odyssey also offers intriguing parallels to the Book of Jonah, and Odysseus’ treatment by the suitors offers close parallels to the Gospels’ depiction of Christ in Jerusalem. (It turns out that the works of Homer are well-employed in the composition of the Gospels, too, as explicated by Dennis R. MacDonald, but that’s off-topic here.)

    Further support for Gmirkin’s seminal work comes from Philippe Wadjenbaum whose book “Argonauts of the Desert” claims to be a “revolutionary new commentary on the Bible and its origins, arguing that most biblical stories and laws were inspired by Greek literature.” Well, as I have demonstrated in the brief review of the main books on the topic that I have read above, it’s not so revolutionary, but it’s the logical follow-up. Gmirkin wrote a lot of stuff that hasn’t been refuted effectively as far as I can see, and he did it at a time when very few had the courage to say these things out loud – heck, even the great Van Seters only suggested it sideways!

    Obviously, the bottom line of all this research and these unsettling conclusions is that the Hebrew Bible is certainly not a history of Israel and, as the archaeological record reveals, there probably was no early kingdom of Israel as described in the Bible yet it has been believed in for millennia as fervently as people believe that the sun will rise. The reactions to the above types of analyses are usually outright rejection even in the face of accumulating mountains of evidence that is considered conclusive in any field of endeavor OTHER than Biblical Criticism. It is asked: if all this is true, how could generation after generation of scholars not have seen it?

    Most Biblical Criticism today is still conducted by “true believers” in the sanctity and primacy of the text and it is in the form of the perpetuation of this dogma rather than true study and research. The Bart Ehrman “Search for the Historical Jesus of Nazareth” debacle of recent times is a case in point. He falls back on his title that gives him (and only others like him) the legitimacy to speak authoritatively about the Bible. Real scientific critics are not allowed to enter the biblical field. If they do, they are shouted down or ignored away by the Churches that grant the authority.

    Gmirkin really let the Genie out of the bottle with this one and there’s no putting it back. Whether the true believers like it or not, biblical studies are moving into a new era.

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