Biblical plagarism and development of judaism?

I found this comment (below) on a reddit forum and wanted to know if the claim that biblical texts, tenants, and concepts are just shameless plagarisms of texts of older polytheistic religions?

I would also like to know if judaism did indeed turn from polytheism via henotheism and monotheism?

I am not well versed in the history of judaism nor it’s development so i would appreciate any feedback, thanks.

"while we’re at it: what I personally found to be by far the most interesting part of comparative theology was the comparison between biblical texts/tenets and those of older religions in the same region and direct neighborhood, e.g. Babylonian, Canaanite, Egyptian etc. The thing is: If you go down that rabbithole, you’ll find it impossible to not notice that many biblical texts, tenets and concepts are just shameless plagiarisms of texts of older polytheistic religions.

Also, another very interesting aspect is analyzing the history of Judaism and Christianity, e.g. how Judaism gradually turned from polytheism via henotheism into monotheism (the latter quite late actually, about the exile period). Or how and when the Christian church came to adopt trinity and its other tenets etc., how and when it chose which books would make it into the collection that is the Bible, etc."

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I am not an expert but two comments:

It is very simplistic to assume that any apparent similarities between different cultures are caused by plagiarism from other cultures to judaism. There are apparent similarities between stories but also significant differences, as pointed out by John Walton and probably many others.

The turn from polytheism via henotheism to monotheism does not probably describe the actual development.

Abraham was born in a polytheistic culture, so the start from a polytheistic culture may be correct. The development after that was a coexistence of different cultures, rather than a general stepwise turn towards monotheism. The stories in Torah and prophets tell that many in Israel worshipped other gods while some stick to the faith in one God. The mocking speaches of prophets tell that the prophets did not believe that the other gods were real gods.


I wish I had more to add to your specific questions. In addition to the comments you receive here, I hope you will do some research on your own and search out the best evangelical scholarship on the issue. Tremper Longman and John Walton are currently at the top of the field in my opinion. Kind of like Craig Keener on the NT.

Meredith Kline’s work on the covenant is also valuable. His book The Structure of Biblical Authority is one I should have read by now. A uncommon name is Ray Sutton. He took Kline’s model of the covenant and restated it in 5 points: transcendence, hierarchy, ethics, sanctions, and continuity. In this way, the covenant model can be seen throughout the OT and NT, and acts as a filter against views about plagiarism and late developments.

And what mainly distinguishes biblical authority from other ancient near eastern treaties is that in the lord vassal relationship, God literally takes the maledictory oath upon himself, Genesis 15:17.

Why single out ‘judaism’?

You seem to be implying that the Trinity is not monotheistic? There is only one God in Christianity.
The bible traces the belief in God from being one of many to the only one standing. But, even early on the other Gods have no teeth or value IOW the bible does not take them as real. What the bible does is claim that there is no other god than the one of Abraham, Issac, and Jacob, whi brought the Israelites out of Egypt.
As much of the early Bible is based on oral tradition it would be hard to define exactly which version came first or whether it is basically the same stories adapted to the culture in hand. Certainly, the Genesis Creation story emphasises the Jewish beliefs in an all powerful single deity who demands a sabbath day. Perhaps it was a rewrite of the Babylonian story? Perhaps it is just coincidence that they seem to tally? Perhaps it is not important!
The whole point of Scripture is that it is sacred, so pulling it apart or doubting it becomes sacrilegious at worse, only justified in an academic capacity.


In addition to the 12 hour survey of the OT Walton does with Hill, there’s a 5 hour survey of the OT and NT Walton does with Strauss. I listened to the first lecture Walton gave in the 5 hour survey and thought it was very well handled. I’m considering presenting the idea to my small group at church to go through it together. If you were to listen to it, we could discuss some of those topics here.

Edit: You can also watch the lectures if you subscribe to Zondervan’s MasterLectures website. It’s a little pricey and the content is limited compared to Scribd.

No, monotheism did not evolve from paganism. In paganism the gods are born and they die. They are not everlasting or infinite. The only thing everlasting in paganism is the “supernatural realm” that gives rise to the gods. Monotheism is quite different, with one eternal deity who brings everything into existence.

No, it’s not plagiarism. The biblical writers adapted pagan stories to write their own inspired stories. Just like Andy Warhol, a Catholic, used da Vinci’s painting of the Annunciation to make his own version. ( da Vinci version , Warhol version ).

Composers did a lot of borrowing also, even from secular sources. The melody for Bach’s Passion Chorale from the Saint Matthew Passion is from a secular song. Earlier composers borrowed secular songs for their mass settings. L’homme armé (The armed man) was a favorite, used by several composers.

Put like that it does sound dodgy. Usually if a composer uses a theme from somewhere ese they acknowledge it. There is no indication that the bible stories have been borrowed or adapted.

However, I am not sure that plagiarism is the right term. Scripture is not about profit or honour to the writer. (There are several good quotes juxtaposng profit and prophet but maybe not here). Oral tradition has no author as such so there is no person to attribute anything to, so no plagiarism either. There is no way to tell which (if either) came first or whether they are just alternate views of the same events.


I’m skeptical this would be a standard practice with ancient documents.

So one could expect a transitional period from standard practice with oral traditions to standard practice with document traditions. A period which could span a thousand or so years.

More than that. Copyright only seems to date from the 18th century.


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There is some recognition of sources with ancient writers like Josephus, right? I haven’t read Josephus, but that’s the period I have in mind. Not sure how far back it goes. Haven’t paid that much attention to the practice. It’s one of those things you take for granted, until you don’t.

Sometimes they do and sometimes they don’t. Show me where Bach acknowledges the provenance of the Passion Chorale melody.

Are you kidding? There is every indication that the creation and flood accounts in the Bible were adapted from older, pagan stories. There are other examples as well.

Who says that they are adaptions? The oral tradition could well predate the written account by thousands of years.

I have agued that the Genesis 1 account is an adaption of the Babylonian, only because there are two days when God des two things instead of one, which breaks the rhythm of the piece.


A good study Bible might help. It’s pretty widely accepted in Christian circles that the flood and creation stories were adapted from Babylonian myths, and are polemical arguments against them.

So now you’re arguing the opposite?

Is a putridly cynical way of looking at this. The Redditor implies that the Authors aren’t doing anything special with the material they drew from, which we know isn’t true.


I thought you knew by now that I tend to put forward arguments regardless of exactly what I believe. The idea is to clarify, not indoctrinate or persuade.

Just because they match does not mean that they did not both start earlier. Perhaps the Israelite version always had 2 things in two days, just to make it fit, regardless of the Babylonian 8 day version. It is all speculation after all.


PS please do not assume I do not possess all the necessary reference books. I am a Lay Preacher after all.

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So why not be clear about where you stand? I think people would find that more honest.

At this point in your life I think that you should own a study Bible. Amazon has the HarperCollins study Bible for $24.69 new, and as low as $12 for used.

The kindle edition is $13.49.

And what makes you think I don’t?

Don’t try nd teach me how to read the bible!


That is not the classical description of paganism.

“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” -Colossians 4:6

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