PART III – History of the Israelite

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:

  1. the Yahwist source (J) : written c. 950 BCE in the southern Kingdom of Judah,
  2. the Elohist source (E) : written c. 850 BCE in the northern Kingdom of Israel,
  3. the Deuteronomist (D) : written c. 600 BCE in Jerusalem during a period of religious reform,
  4. 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.

THE EXODUS

“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 Kadeshbarnea. 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 BCEThe 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 HazorLachishMegiddo 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,[7] 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

Lachish (1650–1200 BCE): This phase of the city was destroyed in a fire. The city, under protection of the New Kingdom of Egypt, was rebuilt by the Caananites 1150 BCE

Megiddo: The city was destroyed around 1150 BC, and the area was resettled by what some scholars have identified as early Israelites

Jericho: radiocarbon dating of the city destruction to between 1617 and 1530 BC.

NEW TESTAMENT

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.

IN CONCLUSION

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

Assmann, Jan (2009). “Moses the Egyptian: The Memory of Egypt”. Oxford Bible Commentary. Harvard University Press.

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.

Butzer, Karl W. (1999). “Demographics”. In Bard, Kathryn A.; Shubert, Steven. Encyclopedia of the archaeology of ancient Egypt. Routledge. ISBN 0-907459-04-8.

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.

Feldman, Louis H. (1998). Josephus’s interpretation of the Bible. University of California Press.

Finkelstein, Israel; Silberman, Neil Asher (2001). The Bible Unearthed. Free Press. ISBN 0-684-86912-8.

Gmirkin, Russell E. (2006). Berossus and Genesis, Manetho and Exodus: Hellenistic Histories and The Date of the Pentateuch. T & T Clark International.

Grisanti, Michael A. (2011). “The Book of Numbers”. In Merrill, Eugene H.; Rooker, Mark; Grisanti, Michael A. The World and the Word. B&H Publishing.

Guillaume, Philippe. “Tracing the Origin of the Sabbatical Calendar in the Priestly Narrative, Genesis 1 to Joshua 5” (PDF). Journal of Hebrew Scriptures. 5, article 13, Spring 1980.

Hayes, John Haralson; Miller, James Maxwell (1986). A History of Ancient Israel and Judah. Westminster John Knox.

Hoffmeier, James K (1999). Israel in Egypt. Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780195130881.

Hoffmeier, James K (2005). Ancient Israel in Sinai. Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780195155464.

Killebrew, Anne E. (2005). Biblical Peoples and Ethnicity. Society of Biblical Literature.

Kitchen, Kenneth (2006). “Egyptology and the traditions of early Hebrew antiquity (Genesis and Exodus)”. In Rogerson, John William; Lieu, Judith. The Oxford handbook of biblical studies. Oxford University Press.

Knight, Douglas A (1995). “Deuteronomy and the Deuteronomist”. In Mays, James Luther; Petersen, David L.; Richards, Kent Harold. Old Testament Interpretation. T&T Clark.

Lemche, Niels Peter (1985). Early Israel: anthropological and historical studies. Brill.

Levinson, Bernard Malcolm (1997). Deuteronomy and the hermeneutics of legal innovation. OUP.

McDermott, John (2002). Reading the Pentateuch. Paulist Press.

McEntire, Mark (2008). Struggling with God: An Introduction to the Pentateuch. Mercer University Press.

Meyers, Carol (2005). Exodus. Cambridge University Press.

Moore, Megan Bishop; Kelle, Brad E. (2011). Biblical History and Israel’s Past. Eerdmans. ISBN 9780802862600.

Miller, William T. (2009). The Book of Exodus: Question by Question. Paulist Press.

Noll, K.L. (2001). Canaan and Israel in Antiquity: An Introduction. Sheffield Academic Press.

Practico, Gary D. (Summer 1985). “Nelson Glueck’s 1938–1940 Excavations at Tell el-Kheleifeh: A Reappraisal”. Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research (BASOR). No. 259: 1–32.

Redmount, Carol A. (1998). “Bitter Lives: Israel In And Out of Egypt”. In Coogan, Michael D. The Oxford History of the Biblical World. OUP.

Rofé, Alexander (2002). Deuteronomy: Issues and Interpretation. T&T Clark.

Rogerson, John W (2003). “Deuteronomy”. In Dunn, James D. G. Eerdmans Commentary on the Bible. Eerdmans.

Rohl, David (1995). Pharaohs and Kings. Crown Publishers.

Russell, Stephen C. (2009). Images of Egypt in early biblical literature. Walter de Gruyter.

Shaw, Ian (2002). “Israel, Israelites”. In Shaw, Ian; Jameson, Robert. A dictionary of archaeology. Wiley Blackwell.

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.

Tigay, Jeffrey H. (2004). “Exodus”. In Berlin, Adele; Brettler, Marc Zvi. The Jewish study Bible. Oxford University Press.

Van Seters, John (1997). “The Geography of the Exodus”. In Silberman, Neil Ash. The land that I will show you. Sheffield Academic Press. ISBN 978-1850756507.

Walton, John H. (2003). “Exodus, date of”. In Alexander, T.D.; Baker, David W. Dictionary of the Old Testament: Pentateuch. InterVarsity Press.

Whitelam, Keith W. (2006). “General problems of studying the text of the bible…”. In Rogerson, John William; Lieu, Judith. The Oxford handbook of biblical studies. Oxford University Press.

Israel Finkelstein and Neil Asher Silberman, Free Press, New York, 2001, 385 pp., ISBN 0-684-86912-8

Finkelstein, I., Silberman, NA., The Bible Unearthed: Archaeology’s New Vision of Ancient Israel and the Origin of Its Sacred Texts,

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.

https://bible.org/article/introduction-book-proverbs

Jump up to:a b Trobisch, David (1994). Paul’s Letter Collection: Tracing the Origins. pp. 1–27. ISBN 0800625978.

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 2:23:17) 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.

b New Testament Letter Structure, from Catholic Resources by Felix Just, S.J.

Also called A Prior Epistle of Paul to the Corinthians[1] or Paul’s previous Corinthian letter.[2], possibly Third Epistle to the Corinthians

Bernard, J. H. (1899). The Pastoral Epistles.

Brown, Raymond E. (1997). Introduction to the New Testament. New York: Anchor Bible. ISBN 0-385-24767-2.

Easton, B. S. (1948). The Pastoral Epistles.

Ehrman, Bart D. (2003). Lost Christianities: The Battles for Scripture and the Faiths We Never Knew. New York: Oxford. ISBN 0-19-514183-0.

Ehrman, Bart D. (2004). The New Testament: A Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings. New York: Oxford. ISBN 0-19-515462-2.

Ehrman, Bart D. (1996). The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture: The Effect of Early Christological Controversies on the Text of the New Testament. New York: Oxford. ISBN 0-19-510279-7.

Falconer, Sir R. (1937). The Pastoral Epistles.

Goodspeed, E. J. (1956). Key to Ephesians.

Guthrie, Donald (1990). New Testament Introduction. Hazell Books. ISBN 0-85111-761-9.

Heard, Richard (1950). An Introduction to the New Testament. Black. ASIN B0000CHRAW.

Harrison, P. N. (1921). The Problem of the Pastoral Epistles.

Johnson, Luke Timothy; Todd C. Penner (2002). The Writings of the New Testament: An Interpretation. Augsburg Fortress Publishers. ISBN 0-8006-3439-X.

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.

Kümmel, Werner G. (1996). Introduction to the New Testament. Abingdon Pr. ISBN 0-687-05576-8.

Pagels, Elaine (1992). The Gnostic Paul: Gnostic Exegesis of the Pauline Letters. Trinity Press International. ISBN 1-56338-039-0.

Perrin, Norman (1974). The New Testament, an Introduction: Proclamation and Parenesis, Myth and History. Harcourt College Pub. ISBN 0-15-565725-9.

Ramsay, Sir W. M. (1920). St. Paul the Traveller.

Robinson, J. A. T. (1976). Redating the New Testament.

Schnelle, Udo (1998). The History and Theology of the New Testament Writings. Augsburg Fortress Publishers. ISBN 0-8006-2952-3.

Streeter, B. H. (1929). The Primitive Church.

PART II – De-Conversion

And now onto the details of my conversion. From an early age, I was fascinated with astronomy, science and physics. I loved watching videos of Dr. Carl Baugh and Kent Hovind, which supported my view of creationism and the young earth theory. They gave me all the information I thought I needed to know about the earth’s history. But somethings just didn’t make sense. For example, in Genesis, it states that God created the sun, the moon and the stars on the fourth day of creation but in the book of Job, it states that when God was forming the earth, the stars rejoiced watching the creation. So which narrative was the correct one? I stumbled across many such contradictions. If I couldn’t make sense of the contradiction, I willingly remained ignorant to that fact and ignored its existence. If something was supported by science, then science finally got it right. If science contradicted something, then I quite literally figured that science had it wrong and had yet to discover the truth. I believed that the Bible was the word of God and nothing could change that for me; no scientific evidence. I was so closed to that belief.

For several years, I suffered from an inner turmoil. I wanted to explain away all the contradictions. I wanted the “truth” in the Bible to prevail. I went to multiple Bible study groups led by very knowledgeable individuals, hoping they could give me the answers I was seeking.  I researched everything I possibly could on the internet; I prayed diligently for hours for God to open my mind the truth behind biblical mysteries. I wanted to solve the riddle of the book of Revelations. I just “knew” that one day, I would have a “eureka” moment from God and everything would make sense and I could shout from the roof tops the true meaning of the written word. But I never received the answer I prayed for. Or maybe I did get the answer I prayed for but it was so different than what I expected. Maybe this new knowledge is the truth. If God existed, why would he purposely hide his knowledge from men that seek to find it?

Fast forward several years and I ran into more and more people that I could discuss with the discrepancies I was seeing. My brother-in-law for a long time had gently pushed scientific evidence my way and slowly I began opening my mind. My wife also had been going through her own religious journey over the past few years. She had given up on religion all together at one point and came back with a different belief in God than what she was raised to believe in. She supported me and encouraged me to pursue my own truth, to get away from what I was raised to believe in blindly and find the right path for myself. Very cautiously, I started reading the Bible with less bias and trying to read the Bible from a different, non-religious point of view. And then, I started to connect the dots and my journey really started!

At first, I was overwhelmed with the amount of information and evidence available to me. I had so much catching up to do and so many things to learn! One of the first things I opened my mind to is the historical evidence of the Biblical writings. For example this one fact that is taught in most universities and seminaries: the first five books of Moses, or the Pentateuch, were not written by Moses but by many people at different times throughout history. Historians can trace and follow the different writing patterns of each writer and see how each book was put together. There are so many discrepancies and it is evident that the books were pieced together over time, which would explain why there are two different creation stores in the book of Genesis. I will come back to more historical evidence later on.

But what I also noticed is the discrepancies in the portray of God and his attitude towards people. One passage states that God rewards those who are righteous, another passage states that His actions are not influenced by our deeds, and yet another says that the evil prosper while the righteous suffer. Some will say that God doesn’t care about evil, sinful people and has let them live in peace until they go to hell after they die, but the righteous are suffering because God is teaching them a lesson since they are His children and he wants them to learn. Why would God be this way, I asked myself! What possible “lesson” could God be teaching poor children around the world with hunger and disease? And what “lesson” did the Israelites teach the Canaanites with their brutal slaughter and annihilation? These are the types of questions that I ran into; these are the questions that I had silenced over the years with my willful ignorance. I didn’t want to find concrete answers before this.

SCIENCE

I dug deeper into scientific literature, research and information. I read extensively on human genetics and the function of DNA; how evolution is being explained in modern terms and what evidence is there to support it; how radiometric dating works. One of the first things I researched and something that also kick-started my journey was the history of the Neanderthals. Scientists doing genetic decoding have discovered that several homo species intermixed, including the current human species and Neanderthals, about fifty-thousand years ago. Scientists have also mapped the entire human genome and our genetic information can be traced back nearly 200,000 years, to our first Homo sapiens ancestor. That means we’ve been around a lot longer than the 6,000 years that the Bible states and we have our diverse genetic background as evidence.

Many creationists try to twist the facts behind radiometric dating methods to showcase the flaws of the system. Their statements are usually along the lines of: since a few readings were in accurate, the whole system is useless and the earth is not millions of years old. I used to believe in this too, after listening to hours of Kent Hovind. Then, I educated myself in the science behind it. Scientists use radiometric dating along with stratigraphic principles and geochronology, meaning they first try to establish the age of the matter or object based on its location in the earth’s layers. Then they use the appropriate dating method such as radiocarbon dating, potassium-argon and uranium-lead dating. Carbon dating is just one very limited dating method, with a very short range of accuracy between 58,000 to 62,000 years, which automatically doesn’t make it to reliable for dating older objects such as fossils. Scientists are aware of these limitations and usually test important materials using several dating methods.

I researched both sides – for and against all of these new ideas for me. But the more I researched, the more I came to the conclusion that there is very little evidence to support what I had been raised to believe. Supporting evidence for evolution was overwhelming and it closed many gaps that my conservative creationist theory did not. I realized that in the past, instead of researching scientific theories, I simply attributed everything that I didn’t understand to “God’s work”. The more gaps in my theory that I began to fill with science, the less of those gaps I attributed to God. And the pieces of the puzzle fit together. Abate, not perfectly, but definitely more than they had ever before. I’m not taking God completely out of the equation, just stating that maybe God wasn’t involved in the constructive or destructive processes of our earth from the beginning to get us to where we are today.

Let me give you an example you will probably laugh at: in ancient times, some of our ancestors thought that during a solar eclipse, a giant wolf was stealing the sun and if they yelled loud enough and sacrificed enough, the wolf would go away. Doesn’t that sound ridiculous? Now we know a solar eclipse is an astronomical event and no wolves are involved. Same goes to many ecological events that occur today. Earthquakes, hurricanes, lightning and thunder and many other occurrences we now know how they function and what causes them. We don’t attribute them to a higher power or spiritual deities. So why do many conservative Christians avoid evolution instead of accepting the scientific evidence? When I finally let go of my fear, I discovered overwhelming evidence for evolution. Sediment layers especially fascinated me; how the layers accumulated and how the older, more primitive species are found deeper in the earth. The K-T boundary, an iridium-rich geo layer dating to the dinosaur extinction event, is especially significant to human ancestral history. No Homo species or ancestors or primate has ever been found to be buried below that boundary, in contrary to the new earth theory that suggests humans and dinosaurs coexisted.

Today, environmentalists blame human activity for the extinction of many species but species have been going extinct for millions of years before humans even appeared. Although there are 10–14 million species of life currently on Earth, more than 99 percent of all species that ever lived on the planet are extinct. This includes the Neanderthals and two other Homo species that coexisted with our ancestors around 50,000 years ago. Since life began on Earth, several major mass extinctions have significantly exceeded the background extinction rate. Estimates of the number of mass extinctions in the last 540 million years range from as few as five to more than twenty.

“In a landmark paper published in 1982, Jack Sepkoski and David M. Raup identified five mass extinctions. They were originally identified as outliers to a general trend of decreasing extinction rates during the Phanerozoic,[7] but as more stringent statistical tests have been applied to the accumulating data, the “Big Five” cannot be so clearly defined, but rather appear to represent the largest (or some of the largest) of a relatively smooth continuum of extinction events.[7]

  1. Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction event (End Cretaceous, K-T extinction, or K-Pg extinction): 66 Ma at the Cretaceous(Maastrichtian)-Paleogene(Danian) transition interval.[8] The K–T event is now officially called the Cretaceous–Paleogene (or K–Pg) extinction event in place of Cretaceous-Tertiary. About 17% of all families, 50% of all genera[9] and 75% of all species became extinct.[10] In the seas it reduced the percentage of sessile animals to about 33%. All non-avian dinosaurs became extinct during that time.[11] The boundary event was severe with a significant amount of variability in the rate of extinction between and among different clades. Mammals and birds emerged as dominant land vertebrates in the age of new life.
  2. Triassic–Jurassic extinction event (End Triassic): 201.3 Ma at the TriassicJurassic About 23% of all families, 48% of all genera (20% of marine families and 55% of marine genera) and 70% to 75% of all species went extinct.[9] Most non-dinosaurian archosaurs, most therapsids, and most of the large amphibians were eliminated, leaving dinosaurs with little terrestrial competition. Non-dinosaurian archosaurs continued to dominate aquatic environments, while non-archosaurian diapsids continued to dominate marine environments. The Temnospondyl lineage of large amphibians also survived until the Cretaceous in Australia (e.g., Koolasuchus).
  3. Permian–Triassic extinction event (End Permian): 252 Ma at the PermianTriassic Earth’s largest extinction killed 57% of all families, 83% of all genera and 90% to 96% of all species[9] (53% of marine families, 84% of marine genera, about 96% of all marine species and an estimated 70% of land species, including insects).[12] The evidence of plants is less clear, but new taxa became dominant after the extinction.[13] The “Great Dying” had enormous evolutionary significance: on land, it ended the primacy of mammal-like reptiles. The recovery of vertebrates took 30 million years,[14] but the vacant niches created the opportunity for archosaurs to become ascendant. In the seas, the percentage of animals that were sessile dropped from 67% to 50%. The whole late Permian was a difficult time for at least marine life, even before the “Great Dying”.
  4. Late Devonian extinction: 375–360 Ma near the DevonianCarboniferous At the end of the Frasnian Age in the later part(s) of the Devonian Period, a prolonged series of extinctions eliminated about 19% of all families, 50% of all genera[9] and 70% of all species.[citation needed] This extinction event lasted perhaps as long as 20 million years, and there is evidence for a series of extinction pulses within this period.
  5. Ordovician–Silurian extinction events (End Ordovician or O-S): 450–440 Ma at the OrdovicianSilurian Two events occurred that killed off 27% of all families, 57% of all genera and 60% to 70% of all species.[9] Together they are ranked by many scientists as the second largest of the five major extinctions in Earth’s history in terms of percentage of genera that went extinct.
  6.  “The Holocene extinction, sometimes called the Sixth Extinction, is a name proposed to describe the currently ongoing extinction event of species during the present Holocene epoch (since around 10,000 BCE) mainly due to human activity. The large number of extinctions span numerous families of plants and animals including mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles and arthropods. Although 875 extinctions occurring between 1500 and 2009 have been documented by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources,[1] the vast majority are undocumented. According to the species-area theory and based on upper-bound estimating, the present rate of extinction may be up to 140,000 species per year.”

PART I – Genesis

Before diving into all the greater details of my conversion, I want give you, the reader, a bit of background information on my upbringing. I hope this will set the stage for my testimony and give you some background that maybe you can relate to.  One of the hardest setbacks I’ve faced during my conversations with others is their automatic assumption that I must have been a rebel my entire life and thus, I’ve reached this stage in my life. I want to say right away, that that is not the case. For most of my life, I had been willingly ignorant and now I seek the truth. With that in mind, let me begin.

I was born into a conservative Christian Pentecostal family in Central Ukraine, still under Soviet rule in 1987, to Vera and Leonid. I’m the oldest of two and have a younger brother that was born with some disabilities, same as my father. Our family was very poor and during the hardest years, we sometimes didn’t even have enough money for food and had to accept what our neighbors could share with us. Both of my parents worked hard to provide for our family but corruption was rampant during the first decade after the fall of the Soviet Union. Through all the difficult times, our family clung to our faith and was always involved in our church and Sunday school.

From an early age, my mother turned to me for a second opinion on major decisions in the household. My father’s mental disability put our family at a disadvantage. My mother did the best she could and she raised me to be proud of myself and my accomplishments. She was a selfless and dedicated woman; she never spared herself and always sacrificed for me in everything from food to clothing to her time. She spent countless hours with me over my homework and was determined that I complete more than the eight grades she had finished in school. Although she was raised in a fundamental Christian family, she enlightened me with narrations of Russian fairy tales, cultural fibs and poetry. I was raised to hold the Bible in high regard, diligently reading and asking questions.  I fondly remember Sunday school lessons and the Biblical riddles that I challenged the older crowd with, to test their knowledge of the Bible.

Our family relocated to the United States in the fall of 1999. I went on to graduate from high school with decent grades and pursued a psychology degree in college. The subject was of great interest to me but I decided to pursue another degree instead. Going from one field of interest to another, almost by accident, I enrolled into a commercial electrician apprenticeship program and found my career.

Our family joined the large Slavic community in Sacramento, CA and became members of a conservative, Pentecostal church.  Church for us was not only about our religion. It was a social community that we celebrated holidays with and essentially, went through life together. Given my upbringing, it felt natural for me to become seriously involved in and devoted to church. At the age of thirteen, I received the Holy Spirit and practiced glossolalia. In our church, we believed in prophecies and visions and even my mother claimed to see prophetic visions and dreams. We strongly believed that our conservative Christian faith was the right path and the only path.

Aside from our Slavic Christian community, our family also had the opportunity to interact with our Seventh Day Adventist neighbors. They shined like a bright light to us in stark contrast to the “other” sinful, adulterous American people surrounding us. They held to a similar fundamental belief system and encouraged us to continue in our faith. These individuals were loving, kind and respected us with great dignity. I had countless discussions with them over dinners regarding their Adventists’ beliefs and my own, and we were always trying to support our own beliefs with passages from the Bible. I had many debates with them but was always eager to support my belief, even hoping that they would one day discover the true God and Jesus that I knew of.

I continued to dedicate myself to studies and church. At that time, I viewed myself as the most serious and most religious person in my social group. At the age of eighteen, I received a prophetic word from God that He wants to be “in a covenant” with me and so I announced my decision to be water baptized. I read the Bible extensively, along with numerous text books and online articles. My ultimate pursuit was truth. I was eager to find answers to all of my questions and support the Bible. I was raised to believe that the word of the Bible was the undisputed, exact, inspired word of God. In my mind, the

Bible was God and God was the Bible.

Our church had a small bible study group that was formed of other dedicated individuals like myself, including my good friend, Vitaliy. He was someone I looked up to in awe; his character and perseverance inspired me to become even more spiritual. It is thanks to him that I learned to become a critical thinker. He showed me new ways to read and research the Bible and how to solve all of its “mysteries”. Together, we brainstormed how to close the contradictions seen in the biblical texts; how to explain them all away. In my mind, if the word of God was true and undisputed, then each contradiction had to have an explanation.

I dove head first into my religion and wanted to dedicate myself to God. I invested every breathing moment I could. I researched, prayed and even fasted for days at a time. Almost every day, I went out to a quiet place at a local park and prayed for hours by myself. Then, on the weekends, I would join a few other men and we would hold prayers in the wilderness. Those prayers meant so much to me; I loved setting aside time to communicate with God and pray in tongues uninterrupted. I would pray about everything on my mind and about my future. I really wanted God to bless me in ministry and bless my future life in general.

I become an outspoken preacher and youth group leader in my church. I was in our church choir, singing every Sunday morning. I participated in a prayer group, which gathered to pray for needs. I remember praying relentlessly for hours, until we were exhausted. I felt like I was growing spiritually, and the feeling I got from praying in glossolalia was so addicting and uplifting. I would get prophetic prophecies from others that I wanted to believe to be true. I memorized ten-minute-long inspiring poems to recite to the congregation. I traveled with my church on mission trips for humanitarian support to Jamaica and Mexico. I traveled to Florida, Washington, Oregon and to regional youth conferences to preach to youth about my revelations. I wanted everyone to know about God. I had received prophetic word that God wanted me to become a great leader and teacher and everything I did, was to glorify God and become the person he wanted me to be.

In 2010, I met a beautiful girl on one of my trips to Washington State and fell in love with her. We married a mere four months later.  She had a similar religious upbringing to mine. Her father is a pastor of a church and she was raised in a large family of twelve children! Our marriage has gone through the good and the bad and at every rough patch, the Bible and prayer was what got me through. I always prayed for God to get me through any difficult time because I believed that our meeting was not a coincidence and we were meant to be together. And we still are but are quite different now than we were when we met and it’s a good thing!