Archaeological Support for Gmirkin’s Thesis on Plato and the Hebrew Bible

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by Neil Godfrey

Neils Peter Lemche (link is to my posts referencing NPL) has reviewed archaeologist Yonatan Adler’s The Origins of Judaism (link is to my post on Adler’s book) and related its evidence and argument to the work of Russell Gmirkin’s Plato and the Hebrew Bible. — on which I have posted in depth here.

Lemche’s review is available on the website of the Scandinavian Journal of the Old Testament but Yonatan Adler has made it available to all through his academia.edu page.

The key takeaways in the review, I think, are:

This book is not written by a traditional biblical scholar but by an archaeologist having his background not in biblical studies but in Judaistic studies. . . .  His task is accordingly not to trace the development of the Torah as if it is something given from Israel’s very beginnings but to find out when its commandments were understood to be normative.

And the “trick” is to follow the normative methods of historical research as it is practised (as far as I am aware) in most fields outside biblical studies:

. . . Adler’s trick: Not to assume in advance what the Bible tells us about the institutions of ancient Israel but to trace the time when the commandments behind these institutions are operative.

And further — what I have found to be so outrageously controversial among so many with an interest in “biblical studies”:

Adler’s methodology is impeccable and indeed factual. His basis assumption is like Occam’s razor: If there is no trace of something, there is no reason to assume that this something existed.

And the point that I have posted about so often here:

The conclusion is that when we move backwards beyond the Hasmonean Period we have no evidence of the [biblical] commandment being followed.


There is simply no evidence in the written or in the archaeological material that the rules of the Torah were ever followed before in the 2nd century BCE at the earliest.

I’m glad he introduced the Mesopotamian law codes that too many have casually assumed lie behind the biblical laws:He notes correctly that the very concept of a written law was unknown in the ancient Near East — the famous Babylonian law codices were scholarly or academic literature as generally accepted today. Never do we find a reference to the Codex Hammurabi in the thousands and thousands of documents of court decisions which have survived.

And then we move close to where Russell Gmirkin’s research has taken us:

However, the idea of the Torah as a written law to be followed by any person accepting its jurisdiction, is something different, and Adler looks to Greece for seeing this function of the law as a written document.

and it follows that Adler’s research . . . .

only supports the assumption that the Hebrew Bible originated within a context which was definitely impressed by Greek ideas.

Sadly Niels Peter Lemche finds it advisable to warn Yonatan Adler of a hostile reaction that many of us who have attempted to discuss these issues dispassionately with so many biblical scholars have come to expect:

But he should be prepared for what may be sent in his way in so far as his study is of the utmost importance for the present reorientation of the study of the origins of the Bible.



Plato and the Biblical Creation Accounts (Gmirkin)

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

by Neil Godfrey

1. Biblical Creation Accounts and Plato – 1 2022-09-25

In his opening chapter RG

      • explains how he will go about identifying the sources behind the Primordial History
      • gives an overview of the history of the scholarly views of Genesis 1-11 and where his own research fits(hint: it all started with the Copenhagen school of biblical criticism and includes reference to “the Elephant(ine) in the room”).


2. Genesis 1 “Amazing” “Unique” — [Biblical Creation Accounts/Plato’s Timaeus – 2] 2022-09-30

Shows how unlike other Near Eastern creation accounts Genesis 1 is.


3. Genesis = Science + Myth + Theology — [Biblical Creation Accounts/Plato’s Timaeus – 3a] 2022-10-02

Overview of Greek scientific ideas and the appearance of Greek cosmogonies that were a blend of science, myth and theology.


4. Why Genesis 1-3 is Different from Other Myths — [Biblical Creation Accounts/Plato’s Timaeus – 3b] 2022-10-03

If the authors of Genesis were inspired by Plato’s discourse on the origins of the cosmos in Timaeus how can one explain the obvious contrast between Plato’s lengthy scientific and philosophical reasoning and the simple narrative in Genesis 1:1-2:3?


5. Genesis 1 as Philosophy — [Biblical Creation Accounts/Plato’s Timaeus – 4] 2022-10-14

Demonstrates the extent and depth of the influence of Plato’s Timaeus into the Hellenistic era and beyond.


6. In the Beginning: Genesis 1 as Science — [Biblical Creation Accounts/Plato’s Timaeus – 5a] 2022-10-26

In this chapter RG begins a verse by verse commentary on how the previous discussions are relevant to each part of Genesis 1.


7. In Six Days: Genesis 1 as Science — [Biblical Creation Accounts/Plato’s Timaeus – 5b] 2022-11-11

Continuing the detailed analysis, noting how Genesis 1 is not a science text. It s primarily a theological myth but it is theology and myth wrapped around a contemporary scientific understanding of how the earth and heavens came into existence.


8. When God Created Humans, then Retired: Genesis 1 as Science — [Biblical Creation Accounts/Plato’s Timaeus – 5c] 2022-11-19

Examines what it means, “Let us create man in our image” in the context of Greek thought. Also a study of what it means for God to have “rested the seventh day” — also in the Greek context.


9. The Second Creation Story in Genesis — [Biblical Creation Accounts/Plato’s Timaeus – 6] 2023-01-03

Genesis 2 is generally seen as a “second creation account” yet this also coheres closely with Plato’s thought and Greek myth.

I have added a detour with observations of another scholar on the relationship between the Garden of Eden temptation story and Plato’s Symposium.

Includes a table of parallels between Timaeus and Genesis 2-3. (I add a sidebar note with a summary of RG’s view that our modern notion of God (formless, eternal, beyond space and time) originated with Plato.)


10. The Garden of Eden — [Biblical Creation Accounts/Plato’s Timaeus-Critias – 7a] 2023-01-08

RG compares the Genesis narrative from Adam and Eve and the Garden of Eden with both Plato’s thought and Greek myth as found in Homer, Hesiod and Pindar.


“Garden of Eden” : Mesopotamian Perspectives 2023-01-09

The Ambiguity of the Serpent: Greek versus Biblical 2023-01-12

In the above posts I digress from RG’s discussion to look a little more closely for contrast and comparison at other myths, Mesopotamian and Greek.


11. Primeval History from Cain to Noah — [Biblical Creation Accounts/Plato’s Timaeus-Critias – 7b] 2023-01-23

The expulsion of Adam and Eve from the Garden read in the light of Hesiod’s Works and Days

The expulsion of Cain from the land of Eden read against Greek and Mesopotamian tropes

The genealogy of Genesis 5 (including inventors) is set against the work of Berossus

The pre-Flood state of the world (ethnic groups, sons of gods) compared with Plato’s narrative in Critias, the sequel to Timaeus.


12. Demigods, Violence and Flood in Plato and Genesis — [Biblical Creation Accounts/Plato’s Timaeus-Critias – 7c] 2023-01-25

There is no question about the Genesis Flood narrative being influenced by the famous Mesopotamian myth. But equally there is no doubt that there are significant differences of episodic detail, motivations, and theological messages. RG studies these against Plato’s myth of Atlantis.


13. Sons of God, Daughters of Men … and “Giants” — Why are they in the Bible? 2023-02-03

Compares the pre-historical age where gods mated with mortals, heroes with great renown emerged, violence spread in both the world of Genesis and that of Plato and Hesiod.


14. Table of Nations and other Post Flood events — [Biblical Creation Accounts/Plato’s Timaeus-Critias – 7d] 2023-02-09

How Greek ideas throw light on Genesis 10’s table of (70) nations, Araham at war, and the tale of Sodom and Gomorrah.


15. When Yahweh was at Peace with Other Gods — [Biblical Creation Accounts/Plato’s Timaeus-Critias – 7e] 2023-02-11

A study of the several different names of a/the deity acknowledged in the Patriarchal narratives of Genesis and their relationship with early pre-biblical gods, but noting in particular how Yahweh worship was compatible with these practices. RG argues that the authors of Genesis were closer to Plato’s ideal principles than the authors of Exodus-Joshua.

I include a map from another scholar showing the diffuse extent of Yahweh worship in pre-biblical times. Yahweh, we know from archaeological finds, was originally part of a larger pantheon and even had a wife.


16. Two Covenants: Israel and Atlantis — [Biblical Creation Accounts/Plato’s Timaeus-Critias – 7f] 2023-02-12

RG expands on an observation first presented by Philippe Wajdenbaum in Argonauts of the Desert that there are striking similarities between the covenant ceremony depicted in Exodus and that of the leaders with their god Poseidon in Critias.


17. Where Did the God of the Bible Come From? – [Biblical Creation Accounts/Plato’s Timaeus-Critias – 8] 2023-02-20

RG explains how monotheism did not gradually evolve but was introduced “full born” from the mind of Plato into the ancient world of natural philosophy and then to theology. But the God of Exodus, a jealous god, is definitely not like Plato’s perfect and good God. RG compares the ideas found in Genesis with those in Exodus-Joshua to show that the authors of the latter failed to welcome the ideals that Plato had expressed. By combining their idea of a local jealous Yahweh with the perfectly good creator deity of Genesis 1 they created the “God of the Bible” with whom we are familiar.


Could Plato Really have Influenced Judaism and the Bible? 2023-02-21

This post is an addendum, having completed the series addressing RG’s analysis of Genesis with Greek thought, and selects extracts from the work of a classicist that illustrates the extent of Plato’s influence in the governments and societies of the world down to Hellenistic and Roman times.



Paradigm Shifts in Religious Studies (Part 3)

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by Tim Widowfield

In a comment to the previous post, Russell Gmirkin took issue with my explanation of Kuhn’s definition of a paradigm and my conclusion that fields of study outside of natural sciences don’t have Kuhnian paradigms, and hence no “paradigm shifts.”

He quoted from his forthcoming book, as follows:

One may define an academic paradigm as an implicit or explicit theoretical and factual framework that is agreed upon by consensus by a body of professionals within a discipline. (Gmirkin 2022)

As I’ve said before, if you want to propose your own definition of a paradigm, I have no quarrel with it. However, having done so, you will have left the Kuhnian universe of ideas. And once again, I protest not because Kuhn was right in all things, but simply because he had a particular structure in mind, and to appropriate his conclusions based on terminology antithetical to that structure is wrong.


I apparently must now apologize for calling someone or something wrong, since Mr. Dabrowski has informed me that I am displaying “animus.” Let us say instead that it is unright. Perhaps even double-plus unright.

Gmirkin continues:

Paradigms are typically perpetuated within academic institutions of learning in preparation for professional life within that field. As an axiomatic intellectual framework enforced by revered teachers and respected peers, paradigms tend to be conservatively preserved and are difficult to change except in the face of both deconstruction by new facts that run counter to the accepted paradigm and the construction of a competing paradigm with greater explanatory power (Kuhn 1996) (Gmirkin 2022)

I understand his point. As we discussed in previous posts, anomalies arise when new data arrives that calls the entire prevailing framework into question. The resulting crisis can engender a great deal of backlash. For example, the discovery of X-rays sent shock waves through the scientific community. One might wonder why this should be so, since the prevailing paradigm didn’t exclude the possibility of their existence. Continue reading “Paradigm Shifts in Religious Studies (Part 3)”


Plato and the Hebrew Bible (Gmirkin)

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

by Neil Godfrey

1. Plato and the Creation of the Hebrew Bible (2016-10-16)

Russell Gmirkin in his new book, Plato and the Creation of the Hebrew Bible draws attention to striking similarities between the Pentateuch (the first five books of the “Old Testament”) on the one hand and Plato’s last work, Laws, and features of the Athenian constitution on the other. . . . . The key to this close linkage is the Great Library of Alexandria.

The main stimulus for Gmirkin’s new study is a desire to examine more closely some of the parallels presented by Philippe Wajdenbaum in Argonauts of the Desert: Structural Analysis of the Hebrew Bible. (Again, see earlier Vridar posts on Argonauts.) According to the Acknowledgements in Plato and the Creation of the Hebrew Bible it was Thomas L. Thompson who suggested this study to Russell Gmirkin, and Gmirkin explains that his focus was on Wajdenbaum’s discussion of the parallels between Plato’s Laws and the Pentateuchal laws as the most persuasive section of his book.


2. The Pentateuch’s Debt to Greek Laws and Constitutions — A New Look (2016-10-16)

Compares Greek and Judean constitutions and governing institutions as documented in their respective literature. Examines the specific  interests within this distinctive Greek form of literature with the topics of interest in the Pentateuchal law codes as well as the sorts of narratives in which they were embedded. Table format for easy comparison.


3. David, an Ideal Greek Hero — and other Military Matters in Ancient Israel (2016-11-12)

Compares the attributes of David with those set out for an ideal Athenian. In table format sets out striking similarities between tribal and military organization of as per the Greek and Hebrew literature, as well as specific details of soldiering and battles.


4. Some preliminaries before resuming Gmirkin’s Plato and the Creation of the Hebrew Bible (2016-12-15)

A discussion on how circular reasoning and naive assumptions can close our minds to the possibility that the Hebrew Bible could possibly be a later Hellenistic work.  References are made to Dale C. Allison, Philip R. Davies, Niels Peter Lemche.


5. The Tribes of Israel modeled on the Athenian and Ideal Greek Tribes? (2016-12-16)

Demonstates that the biblical tribal structure of Israel is unknown elsewhere in the ancient Near East but does reflect the Greek tribal system.


6. The Bible’s Assemblies and Offices Based on Greek Institutions? (2017-1-22)

A table setting out comparisons between Greek and Biblical councils and assemblies, their memberships and responsibilities.


7. Similarities between Biblical and Greek Judicial Systems (2017-1-28)

A table comparing Greek and Biblical judicial systems from local through to “national” levels.


8. The Inspiration for Israel’s Law of the Ideal King (2017-02-09)

The Law of Moses placed limitations on the king that are “without parallel in the ancient Near East.” The limitations are found in Greek literature and customs.


9. Bible’s Priests and Prophets – With Touches of Greek (2017-02-22)

Evidence that the Bible’s account of priests and prophets contains hints of borrowing from the Greek world. (Not that those Hellenistic features mean we have to jettison entirely sources and influences closer to the Levant.)


10. Primitive Democracy in Ancient Israel (2017-04-04)

This post addresses an objection from a Vridar reader to Gmirkin’s argument for Greek institutions being the model of the Bible’s assemblies and offices.  I bring in support for the Gmirkin’s case from other publications by Thorkild Jacobsen, Abraham Malamat, Yves Schlemiel and M.L. West, with particular reference to the Epic of Gilgamesh.


11. Mosaic Laws: from Classical Greece or the Ancient Near East? (2017-06-02)

If the Pentateuch was authored at the Great Library of Alexandria, then we would have a ready explanation for the international setting of Deuteronomy 4:6-8. All the law codes and discussions of constitutions and principles of the framing of ideal laws were housed there. It is not unreasonable to argue that the Mosaic laws were composed in dialogue with this literature. Greek influence was conceivably mediated most easily through Egypt’s centres of learning and Great Library.


12. Plato and the Hebrew Bible: Homicide Laws (2017-06-05)

Compares biblical homicide laws with those in Near East codes and principles set out by Plato. Specifics covered:

    • state of mind,
    • exile,
    • pollution of the land,
    • duty of relatives,
    • temple sanctuary,
    • stoning,
    • the goring ox.


13. Plato and the Hebrew Bible: Law-Giving Narratives as Greek-Inspired Literature (2017-070-26)

Gmirkin gives the most attention in his comparative discussion of historical narrative backgrounds to the institution of law codes and political institutions to Hecataeus but I am interested in exploring how well other material also relates to his central thesis, so bring in Plutarch’s narrative of Theseus for comparison.


14. Plato and the Hebrew Bible: Legal Narratives (esp. Panegyrics), continued (2017-07-26)

Demonstrations of narrative background to lawgivers found in the literature of Thucydides, Herodotus, Isocrates and Aristotle and their similarities with the biblical narratives.


15. Plato and the Hebrew Bible: Legal Narratives continued . . . Solon and Atlantis (2017-07-27)

I compare a section in Plato’s Timaeus and its relevance to Gmirkin’s thesis.


16. Plato and the Hebrew Bible: Greek Foundation Stories and the Bible (2017-07-28)

Identifies the common elements of Greek (and Roman) foundation stories (Cyrene, Heraclidae) and notes their occurence in the biblical foundation myths as well as in a Judean foundation myth independent of the biblical account (Hecataeus of Abdera).


17. Comparing the Rome’s and Israel’s Foundation Stories, Aeneas and Abraham (2017-07-29)

With reference to Moshe Weinfeld’s The Promise of the Land: The Inheritance of the Land of Canaan by the Israelites we  extend Gmirkin’s comparison to Roman foundation stories. Weinfeld explains the relevance of the comparison by noting that the Roman myth originated centuries prior to its more famous versions in the Augustan age.


18. Postscript on Rome’s and Israel’s foundation stories (2017-07-31)

Quotations from Moshe Weinfeld’s book (see #17 above) that explain his justification for his comparisons.


19. Plato and the Hebrew Bible: Political Evolution in Literature (2017-08-05)

Looks at one more type of narrative that is found in common between Greek literature and Primary History (Genesis to 2 Kings). The point is that the same type of story is said to be alien to Near Eastern literature so apparently the only known model for the biblical narratives is found in the Greek writings of Thucydides, Plato and Aristotle.


20. The argument so far: Plato and the Creation of the Hebrew Bible (2017-08-11)

Outlines the main arguments of the first five chapters.


21. Ten Commandments: Where Did they Really Come From? (2017-08-30)

Comparing the ten commandments with sayings of Greek sages and the commandments of Delphi.


22. Table Comparing Homicide Laws: Biblical, Mesopotamian and Greek (2017-09-06)

As per the title: a table making it easy to see the similarities and differences among Biblical, Greek and Mesopotamian laws concerning

    • homicide
    • and the goring ox.


23. Biblical assault and theft laws compared with Mesopotamian and Greek counterparts (2017-09-07)

Another table setting out clearly the similarities and differences among Biblical, Greek and Mesopotamian laws, this time focusing on

    • assault,
    • two men fighting who injure a pregnant woman nearby,
    • and theft.


24. Comparing Biblical Laws on Marriage, Inheritance and Sexual Relations with Other Ancient Codes (2017-09-07)

Tables marking similarities and differences among Biblical, Greek and Mesopotamian laws concerning

    • marriage and inheritance
    • permitted sexual relations
    • prohibited sexual relations


25. Slavery and Social Welfare (if any) Legislation in the Biblical and Neighbouring Worlds (2017-09-11)

Tables comparing the laws from the three provenances concerning

    • slavery
    • debt and freeborn slaves
    • chattel slaves
    • social welfare legislation


26. Plato’s Influence on the Bible’s Property and Agricultural Laws (2017-09-12)

Table comparisons (Bible, Greece, Mesopotamia) of laws on

    • trespassing
    • passers-by eating from the fields
    • boundary stones


27. Deuteronomy’s Military Law — So Very Greek (2017-09-13)

This post delves into a secondary source used by Gmirkin in his discussion of military law as set out in Deuteronomy. The extracts are from Anselm C. Hagedorn’s Between Moses and Plato: Individual and Society in Deuteronomy and Ancient Greek Law.


28. The Law of Moses, a Reflection of the Law that Condemned Socrates and Other Greek Philosophers (2018-01-09)

Even the biblical laws relating to impiety, sorcery, blasphemy, that many of us associate with religious barbarism find their counterparts in “more enlightened” and “philosophical” Greek literature.


29. Socrates as Anti-Hero according to Biblical Law (2018-01-09)

Continuing directly on from the previous post this post covers the two most well-known Athenian trials that mirror the Pentateuchal laws against private and innovative religious practices and deities:

    • against Alcibiades
    • against Socrates


30. Plato and the Creation of the Hebrew Bible – review (2018-10-05)

Looks at a review by Stéphanie Anthonioz of Russell Gmirkin’s Plato and the Creation of the Hebrew Bible that was posted on The Bible and Interpretation. Anthonioz opens up an interesting discussion over different possible explanations for the clear and striking similarities between Plato and the Pentateuch that Russell Gmirkin has detailed.


31. Hebrew Bible of Hellenistic Origin – Gmirkin responds to Anthonioz’s review (2018-10-12)

As per the title: Gmirkin’s response to Anthonioz’s review.


32. Rome’s and Israel’s Ancestor Traditions: How Do We Explain the Similarities? (2018-10-26)

Again addressing Moshe Weinfeld’s The Promise of the Land: The Inheritance of the Land of Canaan by the Israelites. The post covers a typological comparison of the roles of the ancestors of Rome and Israel. I have tried to capture the main outline.

    1. A Man Leaving a Great Civilization and Charged with a Universal Mission
    2. Gap Between Migration of the Ancestor and the Actual Foundation
    3. Promise at Stake
    4. The Pious Ancestor
    5. The Ancestral Gods
    6. Burial Place of the Founder
    7. Canaan versus Aram, Rome versus Carthage


33. Plato and the Creation of the Hebrew Bible – Post #32 (2018-11-13)

A list of all the posts I have completed so far on Russell Gmirkin’s book, Plato and the Creation of the Hebrew Bible. including a link to an extended abstract or chapter by chapter outline by Gmirkin himself on his academia.edu page.


34. How Plato Inspired Moses: Creation of the Hebrew Bible (2018-11-18)

After having demonstrated the many details, themes and values that the books of the Hebrew Bible share with Greek literature, practices and ideas, Russell Gmirkin concludes with a chapter examining how closely the biblical canon appears to match Plato’s recommendations for a national curriculum. There are certainly Canaanite and Mesopotamian fingerprints in the “Old Testament” but these Scriptures are unlike anything else produced in the ancient Near East. The Hellenistic heritage explains that difference.


35. Correction to my latest post on Plato and the Creation of the Hebrew Bible (2018-11-20)

I have made a correction to a serious error in my recent post How Plato Inspired Moses: Creation of the Hebrew Bible. In that post I took credit for identifying many parallels between the Hebrew Bible and Plato’s Laws prior to reading Russell Gmirkin’s book. I should have acknowledged — and I have now made the correction — that my interest in Plato’s Laws was sparked by Philippe Wajdenbaum’s Argonauts of the Desert: Structural Analsysis of the Hebrew Bible.



The following posts bring Russell Gmirkin’s thesis into engagement with a more mainstream view set out in other posts covering Seth Sanders’ From Adapa to Enoch:

36. Who Influenced Biblical and Second Temple Jewish Literature? (2019-09-02)

I have been posting on points of interest in Seth Sanders’ From Adapa to Enoch: Scribal Culture and Religious Vision in Judea and Babylon and have reached a point where I cannot help but bring in certain contrary perspectives from Russell Gmirkin’s Plato and the Creation of the Hebrew Bible.


37. More Thoughts on Origins of Biblical and Pseudepigraphical Literature (2019-09-03)

Further comparisons between a conventional view of Mesopotamian-Biblical influence and the alternative view that the Greek world is a better explanation for the Biblical content.