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The Bible Unearthed
The Bible Unearthed is a 90-minute documentary that aired on the History Channel. The sound gets a little out of sync on this YouTube video, but I haven't been able to find a better version. If you can't stand it, check your TV listings or just read the book that it's based on. The video discusses the Old Testament stories in relationship with what we can determine through history and archaeology.
The picture that emerges is very different from the story that the Bible tells. During the seventh to fifth centuries BC the nations of Israel and Judah were coalescing. Religion and history were both crafted to set the nations apart from the surrounding people. Their mythologies were eventually combined and revised into what we call the Old Testament. I guess that's why there are two versions of several stories in the Bible (e.g., creation and 10 the commandments). It's also possible that monotheism is not as old at the Bible suggests. The fledgling Jewish nations may have selected a god from the pantheon and declared that he was the only true god, not unlike what Muhammad did with Allah. There is certainly evidence that El, a very early name for the Jewish god, was part of the pantheons of several of the surrounding cultures.
I would love to hear what you think of the video. I just requested the book from the library.
That is mostly the case. The name thing I am not sure about, but just about all literary and historical evidence support basically what you summarize.
To be honest, I have spent the last two years studying literature formation in the new testament period and beyond, so I have not taken the time to work on the OT/HB much. I can talk all day about the gospels, the letters etc… but I am just not that knowledgeable about the OT. I would not be surprised if Canaanites worshiped EL or if Israel’s unparalleled monotheist developed out of a polytheistic environment or simply in the midst of it. The OT itself seems to attest to a lot of polytheism on the part of the Hebrews.
I am certain that Gen 1-12 was written as myth. As such, that bypasses the historical question and makes it a literary/religious question. They weren’t trying to write history and we should not take it as history, if you know what I mean. As to the rest of it, I just don’t know. I do know that the Israel/Judah explanation seems to fit, especially for the doublets. Curiously, the fact that there are double stories, one from each trajectory, suggests that there was a shared story origination point from which each story diverged.
Lastly, I don’t need the OT to be strict history as some of my friends say it is for Christianity to stand or fall.
Oh, Abraham and Moses - from a position that is reliant on faith, yes, I think they were actual persons and that the Bible preserves at least a close historical account. But, that is from a position of faith. The historian cannot introduce faith as a means of holding a story up. I can.
Not for me, faith and history are two different games with two different set of rules. The historian has to deal with that is the most likely thing to have happened. It is most likely that Jesus did not raise from the dead because we have not seen many people rise from the dead ever. The historian never actually describes what happens. This is important to remember. He does not have a video camera recording of an event and and matrix-like hookup into everyone’s heads at the time. She reconstructs what likely happened and what people likely were thinking.
Faith on the other hand, is able to move beyond such restrictions such as probability and lack of evidence. It is always informed by history and its best guesses, but it can take the next step. Drawback is that you are now on shaky ground - but for me, when coupled with my experiences and those around me, in addition to what I interpret as evidence of God’s handiwork in creation - it’s not too shaky for me to walk on… and it’s better than standing back there where history ends, back with the probabilities and uncertainty.