My fascination with history led me to research the history of the Israelite people. Why are they the “chosen” people of God and where did they come from? For the first time, I began looking at the Old Testament stories with a different point of view. Why was the God of the Old Testament so different from the one in the New Testament? And why was he so evil? If God is and always has been the same, the Bible does not uphold that doctrine. The biblical Israelites committed the most atrocious, heinous crimes against humanity: murdering, raping, pillaging, taking their enemies for slaves; committing incest, etc. And all of these acts they attributed to God! We have similar events happening today in the Middle East and Muslims back up their actions with the Quran. How were the Israelites any different? I do not want to believe in or support a religion were a God upholds such actions.
I researched further into the writings of the Old Testament. I stumbled across what is called the “documentary hypothesis”, a theory that is taught in almost all seminaries and universities and almost universally accepted by scholars. As I mentioned earlier, at this point I found out that Moses did not after all write the first five books but rather there are four different sources:
- the Yahwist source (J) : written c. 950 BCE in the southern Kingdom of Judah,
- the Elohist source (E) : written c. 850 BCE in the northern Kingdom of Israel,
- the Deuteronomist (D) : written c. 600 BCE in Jerusalem during a period of religious reform,
- the Priestly source (P) : written c. 500 BCE by Kohanim (Jewish priests) in exile in Babylon.
The documentary hypothesis (DH), sometimes called the Wellhausen hypothesis, proposes that the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Bible) was derived from originally independent, parallel and complete narratives, which were subsequently combined into the current form by a series of redactors (editors). The number of these narratives is usually set at four, but the precise number is not an essential part of the hypothesis.
Not only was the Old Testament written and rewritten by different people, but there are multiple versions, each to fit into a specific era, rewritten to fit the current socio-economic situation. The books of Psalms and Proverbs follow similar suit with multiple writers. Solomon, the son of David, was said to have written over three thousand proverbs (1 Ki 4:32). Many of them are found in the book of Proverbs but not all were written by him. Here’s a breakdown of the different passages:
- These are believed to be genuine texts: 1:1–9:18 and 10:1–22:16
- These were selected by a committee appointed under King Hezekiah (726-698 B.C.): 25:1–29:27
- Certain wise men are believed to have authored these passages, perhaps these were the ones who attended Solomon (cf. 1 Ki 4:31; 12:6). Their units are two: 22:17–24:22 and 24:23-34
- Perhaps the placement of the two sections of anonymous sayings by the wisemen (22:17–24:22; and 24:23-34) suggests that they came from period between Solomon’s reign and the collection of Hezekiah’s
- Agur son of Jakeh: We do not know who this was. This is found in 30:1-33
- King Lemuel: He was a non-Israelite who may have lived in the area of Uz where people still believed in the true God. This is in 31:1-9 and perhaps 31:10-31.
- Proverbs 22:17-23:10 had been borrowed from the Egyptian text called Amenemope (also called Instructions of Amenemopet, Wisdom of Amenemopet) is a literary work composed in Ancient Egypt, most likely during the Ramesside Period (ca. 1300–1075 BCE); it contains thirty chapters of advice for successful living, ostensibly written by the scribe Amenemope son of Kanakht as a legacy for his son.
- Some of Proverbs was probably compiled as a canonical book at a later time (at least during the time of Hezekiah (726-698 B.C.)
As for the Book of Psalms: “the composition of the psalms spans at least five centuries, from Psalm 29, which was probably adapted from an entire Canaanite hymn to Baal which was transposed into a hymn to Yahweh, to others which are clearly from the post-Exilic period. The majority originated in the southern kingdom of Judah and were associated with the Temple in Jerusalem, where they probably functioned as libretto during the Temple worship. Exactly how they did this is unclear, although there are indications in some of them: “Bind the festal procession with branches, up to the horns of the altar,” suggests a connection with sacrifices, and “Let my prayer be counted as incense” suggests a connection with the offering of incense.
“A century of research by archaeologists and Egyptologists has found no evidence which can be directly related to the Exodus captivity and the escape and travels through the wilderness, and most archaeologists have abandoned the archaeological investigation of Moses and the Exodus as “a fruitless pursuit”. I was blown away by the fact that the exodus, such a major pinnacle point in the Israelite history, never actually happened! Moses did not in fact lead millions of people out of Egypt after all! Egyptians were very meticulous record keepers; even seemingly insignificant events were recorded. Egyptian records show no evidence what so ever that the events described in the Old Testament actually occurred.
“The consensus among biblical scholars today is that there was never any exodus of the proportions described in the Bible. According to Exodus 12:37–38, the Israelites numbered “about six hundred thousand men on foot, besides women and children,” plus many non-Israelites and livestock. Numbers 1:46 gives a more precise total of 603,550 men aged 20 and up. The 600,000, plus wives, children, the elderly, and the “mixed multitude” of non-Israelites would have numbered some 2 million people, compared with an entire Egyptian population in 1250 BCE of around 3 to 3.5 million. Marching ten abreast, and without accounting for livestock, they would have formed a line 150 miles long. No evidence has been found that indicates Egypt ever suffered such a demographic and economic catastrophe or that the Sinai desert ever hosted (or could have hosted) these millions of people and their herds. It is also difficult to reconcile the idea of 600,000 Israelite fighting men with the information that the Israelites were afraid of the Philistines and Egyptians.
Some scholars have rationalized these numbers into smaller figures, for example reading the Hebrew as “600 families” rather than 600,000 men, but all such solutions have their own set of problems. The view of mainstream modern biblical scholarship is that the improbability of the Exodus story originates because it was written not as history, but to demonstrate God’s purpose and deeds with his Chosen People, Israel. The most probable explanation of the 603,550 delivered from Egypt (according to Numbers 1:46) is that this number is a gematria (a code in which numbers represent letters or words) for bnei yisra’el kol rosh, “the children of Israel, every individual;” while the number 600,000 symbolizes the total destruction of the generation of Israel which left Egypt, none of whom lived to see the Promised Land.
The first record of the name “Israel” occurs in the Merneptah Stele, erected for Egyptian Pharaoh Merneptah c. 1209 BCE: “Israel is laid waste and his seed is not”. This “Israel”, located in the central highlands, was more of an ethnic, cultural and even political group rather than an organized state. Many of the cities that are cited in the book of Joshua as being destroyed and leveled in fact did not get destroyed. Evidence points to some cities being destroyed hundreds of years prior by a different civilization, some destroyed by natural causes and some were never destroyed, simply vacated at some point as humanity moved across the lands (reference chart below). The lack of evidence of the exodus and the subsequent annihilation of peoples and cities is so evident that almost all qualified archeologists and historians have given up on the idea all together, labeling it as a waste of time.
The actual history of the Israelite nation is much less exciting. “A number of theories have been put forward to account for the origins of the Israelites, and despite differing details they agree on Israel’s Canaanite origins. The culture of the earliest Israelite settlements is Canaanite, their cult-objects are those of the Canaanite God El, the pottery remains in the local Canaanite tradition, and the alphabet used is early Canaanite, and almost the sole marker distinguishing the “Israelite” villages from Canaanite sites is an absence of pig bones, although whether even this is an ethnic marker or is due to other factors remains a matter of dispute”. At one point in the Canaanite history, there were a number of downfalls in the economic situation and civil unrest in the nation. A group of Canaanites separated themselves and formed a new nation in the hills of the region, taking with them their old religions and social guidelines.
I remember walking out of our home office and telling my wife what I just learned and I was in shock! I couldn’t wrap my head around the facts and the evidence. How could such lies be rampant in the Bible if God himself had influenced the writings? Why would God allow these myths to remain? Not only did the Israelites make up a history for their people, they also took their old, pagan religion and blended it with their new system. Even the creation story was taken out of a Sumerian text that predates the Israelites, called “Enuma Elish”, and the flood story of Noah was taken from the Sumerian text called the “Epic of Gilgamesh”.
Here’s a table I put together to cross-reference several exodus dates and events as described in the Old Testament:
|BIBLICAL ACCOUNT||HISTORICAL ACCOUNT|
|Exodus Occurred 1446 BC (Exodus 13 – 18)And they (Israelites) built for Pharaoh storage cities, Pithom and Ramses.||(Ramesses the Great, reigned 1279–1213 BC) Pi-Ramesses meaning “House of Ramesses, Great in Victory”, was the new capital built by the Nineteenth Dynasty of Egypt, Pharaoh Ramesses II, at Qantir, near the old site of Avaris.The city had previously served as a summer palace under Seti I (c. 1290–1279 BC), and may have been originally founded by Ramesses I (c. 1292–1290 BC) while he served under Horemheb.|
|[ Israel’s History after the Exodus ] These are the words which Moses spoke to all Israel across the Jordan in the wilderness, in the Arabah opposite Suph, between Paran and Tophel and Laban and Hazeroth and Dizahab. It is eleven days’ journey from Horeb by the way of Mount Seir to Kadesh–barnea. In the fortieth year, on the first day of the eleventh month, Moses spoke to the children of Israel, according to all that theLord had commanded him to give to them, …||Victory Stele of Merneptah: 1208 BCE “The princes are prostrate, saying, “Peace!”
Not one is raising his head among the Nine Bows.
Now that Tehenu (Libya) has come to ruin, Hatti is pacified; The Canaan has been plundered into every sort of woe: Ashkelon has been overcome; Gezer has been captured; Yano’am is made non-existent. Israel is laid waste and his seed is not; Hurru is become a widow because of Egypt.”The Merneptah Stele indicated that a people called “Israel” were already known in Canaan by the reign of Merneptah (1213–1203 BCE), so a date later than this was impossible.Some now believe that a small group did escape from Egypt; however, they were not Israelites but, rather, Canaanite slaves. On their journey back to Canaan they pass through Midian, where they are inspired by stories of the Shasu‘s God, Yhw.Two such sites are the Biblical Kadesh Barnea, modern Ein Qadis, and Ezion Geber, on the Israeli side of the border between Israel and Jordan, just outside Eilat. Both sites have been investigated archaeologically, and found to have been founded during the Ancient Near Eastern Late Iron Age — no earlier than 700/800 BCE, with the obvious exception of early neolithic/nomadic activity
|Exodus 15:14-16 New American Standard Bible (NASB)14 “The peoples have heard, they tremble;
Anguish has gripped the inhabitants of Philistia.
15 “Then the chiefs of Edom were dismayed;
The leaders of Moab, trembling grips them;
All the inhabitants of Canaan have melted away.
16 “Terror and dread fall upon them;
By the greatness of Your arm they are motionless as stone;
|Edom was not yet a nation at the time. In fact, the region wasn’t even inhabited yet. The place the Hebrews stop at wasn’t even built until 800 BCE. However, the latest the Exodus could have occurred and still be biblically accurate is in the 13th century BCE, not even close to the correct century.|
|Joshua 11:11 New American Standard Bible (NASB)11 They struck every person who was in it with the edge of the sword,[a]utterly destroying them; there was no one left who breathed. And he burned Hazor with fire.
Joshua 10:31-33 New American Standard Bible (NASB)
31 And Joshua and all Israel with him passed on from Libnah to Lachish, and they camped by it and fought against it. 32 The Lord gave Lachish into the hands of Israel; and he captured it on the second day, and struck it and every person who was in it with the edge of the sword, according to all that he had done to Libnah.
33 Then Horam king of Gezer came up to help Lachish, and Joshua [a]defeated him and his people until he had left him no survivor.
Joshua 6:24 New American Standard Bible (NASB)
24 They burned the city with fire, and all that was in it. Only the silver and gold, and articles of bronze and iron, they put into the treasury of the[a]house of the Lord.
|Indigenous Canaanite types, and while some cities, including Hazor, Lachish, Megiddo and others, have destruction and transition layers around 1250–1145 BCE, others, including Jericho, have none or were uninhabited during this period.Nevertheless, one archaeological stratum, dating from around 1200 BC, shows signs of catastrophic fire, and cuneiform tablets found at the site refer to monarchs named Ibni Addi, where Ibni may be the etymological origin of Yavin (Jabin). The city also show signs of having been a magnificent Canaanite city prior to its destruction, with great temples and opulent palaces, split into an upper acropolis, and lower city; the town evidently had been a major Canaanite city. He theorized that the destruction of Hazor was the result of civil strife, attacks by the Sea Peoples, and/or a result of the general collapse of civilization across the whole eastern Mediterranean in the Late Bronze Age
Jericho: radiocarbon dating of the city destruction to between 1617 and 1530 BC.
These new revelations threw me off course from everything I was brought up to believe. The very foundation upon which I had built my faith was actually composed of lies! But I didn’t stop there and dove even further, now into the New Testament. I was hoping that maybe at least these later books contained valid scripts. I did extensive research on the chronology of scriptures and manuscripts. But it turns out we don’t have any originals, we have copies of copies of copies. Approximately 95% of all the manuscripts we have today were copied in the 9th century and all of them were written in Greek. The manuscripts that we are left with today are also full of mistakes, misspellings and various additions by scribes.
Researchers estimate that the first book, the Gospel of Mark, was penned about forty years after the death of Jesus and the last book, Book of Revelation, was written in late second century. And just like the Old Testament, there is evidence that the New Testament is a collaborative and successive work. How the New Testament was constructed just added to my disappointment. For example, the Mathew and Luke writers simply used the Gospel of Mark and a few additional sources to put together similar stories but at a later time, called the synoptic gospels. The book of John, believed to be put together in 90-100AD, has two distinct writing patterns, indicating two authors. Evidence shows that even the Book of Mark was altered and the famous ending added on later. Earlier manuscripts show that the book ended at Mark 16:8, with the women fleeing an empty tomb. Many passages and even entire books are pseud-pigraphic, meaning they are falsely attributed to the apostles, making them seem like accurate books to be reckoned but were not actually penned by those same apostles. There are some genuine books and letters. Majority of scholars believe that Paul wrote seven letters: First Thessalonians (51AD), Philippians (52AD), Philemon (52AD), First Corinthians (52-54AD), Galatians (55AD), Second Corinthians (55-56AD), and Romans (55-58AD). Corinthians is believed to be a collection of two to five letters that were later combined to form a cohesive book. The following books are believed to be pseud-pigraphic, or falsely-attributed to apostles: First Timothy, Second Timothy, Titus and Ephesian, and possibly Colossians and Second Thessalonians.
What fascinated me the most was the composition of Jesus’ character and who people believed he was. What Christians believed and understood about Him seemed to evolve over time. First we have Paul, who states that Jesus Christ is a human and that God resurrected him and made him a God after death. Later, in the Gospel of Mark, Jesus is proclaimed the son of God during his water baptism with John the Baptist. We find in both Matthew and Luke that they believed Jesus was conceived with God’s supernatural power. And in the Gospel of John, it’s written that He was always God. One thing that stood out to me was Jesus’ mention of the Old Testament in his teachings. If he was a God like is claimed, wouldn’t he know that the Old Testament is not true, a fib, a creation of a mortal’s imagination?
To make sense of this, I looked into history. During those times, both Greeks and Hebrews believed that a mortal man can become a divine God in the following ways: made divine by the will of gods, made divine by conception of a mortal and immortal (demigod), or be divine by birth from immortal parents. The New Testament shows all three of these scenarios in play. I believe that ancient Israelites and Greeks tried to explain Jesus on their own terms and we see that in their writings. But it’s also important to note that Jesus was not the only individual at the time to be called “son of god/divine”: Augustus, was also known as Gaius Julius Caesar Divi Dilius (son of the divine). Demi-gods or divinely-created humans can be found in ancient Greek and Roman mythology.
Early Christians were also divided in their understanding of God and how to practice their religion. There were several group movements including: Ebionites (Jewish-Christian) which accepted Jesus as the messiah but still practiced Jewish law; Marcionists, who accepted Jesus but rejected the Old Testament god and labeled him as a tyrant; Gnostics, who believed in a higher God who was revealed by Jesus Christ and was higher than the God of this world and of the Old Testament; and Orthodox, which eventually was voted the supreme belief and what remains a main stream belief today. Researchers hypothesis that there were hundreds of writings at one point. Later on, all gospels not in accordance with Orthodox beliefs were labeled as heretic and dismissed and just the four synoptic books remained in the Christian religion.
Therefore, I cannot decisively conclude who Jesus was with all this evidence presented. There is too much evidence in the way for me to freely be ignorant and continue as I was previously. Maybe Jesus was a God or maybe a mortal man who left behind a great legacy of teachings about love, peace and brotherhood.
My pursuit of truth has taken me to a place I never thought I would end up at. I learned all of this information and so much more in a short period of time and it lead me into depression and disbelief. I have always been so dedicated to my conservative Christian beliefs, I so strongly pursued to tell others about them. Now, I’m left to pick up from scratch and find a new path. My Christian community wasn’t just a church, they were my friends and social group. It’s very hard to share my new learned information without being criticized and put down and mocked. People assume I want to get away from Christianity to “sin” and be free but that’s very far from the truth. I want to be a better person; I want to leave a good legacy on earth. If evolution is true, then there was no Adam and no “original sin” from which we need repentance and forgiveness. We are an evolving species and inherit all of our primitive instincts and emotions and we need to move away from that to evolve into a logical civilization. Instead of just praying for others and their well-being, we should focus on showing love and understanding. We are the only ones who can change the suffering and the evil that is happening all around us. And that change starts inside of each one of us – to make the world a better place!
I refuse to be willingly ignorant ever again and so I cannot simply go back and take back everything I’ve learned and I don’t want to. I do not want to believe and live a lie. I’m still seeking for God’s truth but in order for me to do that, I had to separate God from the Bible and that has been the hardest part for me. I had to tear away from myself one of the things I held so dear to myself. I’ve decided that if there is a God, he doesn’t need my outdated, backwards religious practices. I’m praying to God to guide me through this conversion of mine and reveal Himself in His glory!
SOURCES and LINKS
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Beitzel, Barry (Spring 1980). “Exodus 3:14 and the divine Name: A Case of Biblical Paronomasia” (PDF). Trinity Journal (Trinity Divinity School) 1: 5–20.
Carr, David M.; Conway, Colleen M. (2010). “Introduction to the Pentateuch”. An Introduction to the Bible: Sacred Texts and Imperial Contexts. John Wiley & Sons.
Davies, Graham (2001). “Introduction to the Pentateuch”. In Barton, John. Oxford Bible Commentary. Oxford University Press. p. 37.
Davies, Graham (2004). “Was There an Exodus?”. In Day, John. In search of pre-exilic Israel: proceedings of the Oxford Old Testament Seminar. Continuum.
Davies, Philip (1998). Scribes and Schools: The Canonization of the Hebrew Scriptures. Westminster John Knox.
Dever, William (2001). What Did the Biblical Writers Know, and When Did They Know It?. Eerdmans. ISBN 3-927120-37-5.
Dever, William (2003). Who Were the Early Israelites and Where Did They Come From?. Eerdmans. ISBN 3-927120-37-5.
Droge, Arthur J. (1996). “Josephus Between Greeks and Barbarians”. In Feldman, L.H.; Levison, J.R. Josephus’ Contra Apion. Brill.
Enns, Peter (2012). The Evolution of Adam. Baker Books.
Faye, Bernard (2013). “Classification, History and Distribution of the Camel”. In Kadim, Isam T.; Mahgoub, Osman; Faye, Bernard. Camel Meat and Meat Products. CABI.
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Miller, William T. (2009). The Book of Exodus: Question by Question. Paulist Press.
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Shea, William H. (2003). “The Date of the Exodus”. In Grisanti, Michael A.; Howard, David M. Giving the Sense: Understanding and Using Old Testament Historical Texts. Kregel Academic.
Ska, Jean Louis (2006). Introduction to Reading the Pentateuch. Eisenbrauns.
Soggin, John (1998 [tr.1999]). An Introduction to the History of Israel and Judah. SCM Press. Check date values in: |date= (help)
Sparkes, Kenton L. (2010). “Genre Criticism”. In Dozeman, Thomas B. Methods for Exodus. Cambridge University Press.
Thompson, Thomas L. (1999). The Mythic Past: Biblical Archaeology And The Myth Of Israel. Basic Books.
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Israel Finkelstein and Neil Asher Silberman, Free Press, New York, 2001, 385 pp., ISBN 0-684-86912-8
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The New Jerome Biblical Commentary, publ. Geoffrey Chapman, 1989, chapter 60, at p.920, col. 2 “That Paul is neither directly nor indirectly the author is now the view of scholars almost without exception. For details, see Kümmel, I[ntroduction to the] N[ew] T[estament, Nashville, 1975] 392-94, 401-3”
Metzger, Bruce M. (1987). The Canon of the New Testament: Its Origin, Development, and Significance (PDF). pp. 295–296. ISBN 0198261802.
Joseph Barber Lightfoot in his Commentary on the Epistle to the Galatians writes: “At this point [Gal 6:11] the apostle takes the pen from his amanuensis, and the concluding paragraph is written with his own hand. From the time when letters began to be forged in his name (2 Thess 2:2; 3:17) it seems to have been his practice to close with a few words in his own handwriting, as a precaution against such forgeries… In the present case he writes a whole paragraph, summing up the main lessons of the epistle in terse, eager, disjointed sentences. He writes it, too, in large, bold characters (Gr. pelikois grammasin), that his handwriting may reflect the energy and determination of his soul.”
Pheme Perkins, Reading the New Testament: An Introduction (Paulist Press, 1988), pp. 4–7.
Bernard, J. H. (1899). The Pastoral Epistles.
Easton, B. S. (1948). The Pastoral Epistles.
Falconer, Sir R. (1937). The Pastoral Epistles.
Goodspeed, E. J. (1956). Key to Ephesians.
Heard, Richard (1950). An Introduction to the New Testament. Black. ASIN B0000CHRAW.
Harrison, P. N. (1921). The Problem of the Pastoral Epistles.
von Harnack, Adolf (1926). Die Briefsammlung des Apostels Paulus.
James, J. D. (1906). The Genuineness and Authorship of the Pastoral Epistles.
Jeremias, J. (1952). Die Briefe an Timotheus und Titus.
Ramsay, Sir W. M. (1920). St. Paul the Traveller.
Robinson, J. A. T. (1976). Redating the New Testament.
Streeter, B. H. (1929). The Primitive Church.