Have you ever heard the anecdote that nothing ruins the faith of a Christian more thoroughly than going to Seminary and studying the Greek and Hebrew texts that Evangelicals take for granted? There’s no ONE BOOK involved in this scenario. It’s dozens and dozens of books.
But let’s say you wanted to give the Old Testament and New Testament it’s own dignity as you research this.
Studying Assyrian, Babylonian and Persian history will tell you that the first notice of the State of Judah was in the mid 700’s BCE or so. There is no indication that Judah and Israel were ever united at all. Solomon (or in Hebrew, Shlomo), appears to be a “back story” about a legendary hero, from whom the “City of SHLM” gets its name: i.e. Ur-Shlm. Historically speaking, the Amarna texts mention this Ur-Shlm; but it is only a city-state, like so many of the other inhabitations under Egyptian hegemony in the 1400’s BCE.
Egyptian hegemony ebbs and flows in Palestine, until the time of the Sea People, including the Philistines… which is around 1130 BCE. The Bible places Abraham negotiating with the Philistines some 800 years earlier than they actually arrive. And Exodus any time before 1130 is virtually impossible, because the Egyptians controlled Palestine (granted, with varying degrees of thoroughness) - - until the Philistines.
The purity rules of Leviticus and Exodus have an awful lot in common with the extreme purity rules of the Zoroastrians… which the Jews don’t meet until AFTER the Babylonian Exile in 580’s BCE … and AFTER the Persians conquer the Babylonians (middle of the 500’s BCE). Persian influence (on priestly garb and ceremonies) has a solid 200 years to go, before Alexander the Great takes over the Persian Empire, and Palestine as well.
If the Hebrew were really strongly influenced by the Egyptians, the one thing we would find filling all the pages of the Old Testament is a belief in the Afterlife. After all, this is what Christianity believes, right? And yet in the whole of the Old Testament, there are some 2 or 3 shaky scriptural texts that imply a general afterlife and/or general resurrection.
For 100 or 200 years before the birth of Jesus, the Jewish mystics had become increasingly impressed with the world of angels and the afterlife described by the Zoroastrians; the Magi, having lost their Persian sponsors after the defeat by Alexander the Great, are circulating through the world making a case for their metaphysical ideas … some Greeks like them. Some Egyptians like them. And some Jews definitely like these ideas of the Magi.
Jesus is virtually certainly a real person, described by Josephus as the “Samaritan Messiah”, and described by Josephus as the messiah executed by Pontius Pilate. All the other messiah’s mentioned by Josephus are ALSO mentioned in the New Testament … with the exception of the Samaritan Messiah. But we do have biblical text where people who know him call Jesus “a Samaritan” (in fact, the Good Samaritan may be Jesus’s story about HIMSELF).
What most New Testament scholars don’t investigate is that the theology of “self-sacrifice” is a Phoenician one. Centuries earlier, Hamilcar of Carthage pledged his life to save his country and his army by throwing himself onto a fire in Sicily. The Romans called this practice ‘Devotio’. Unfortunately, the Carthaginian forces were defeated. But every year the Carthaginian people celebrated Hamilcar’s self-divinization … just as we celebrate the Death (and Rising) of Jesus every year. It was not the act of a crazy person. It was the act of a very earnest and devoted believer in God and the afterlife.
The Transfiguration is the New Testament story prefiguring Jesus becoming DIVINIZED … just like the Messianic Jews had already come to believe happened to Moses and Elijah. This story comes from an early form of the gospel where Jesus is a Samaritan Jew (there were those) … who BECAME divine.
Then came Paul. And the story got modified into Jesus being BORN divine. Once that was established, the story of the Transfiguration becomes less clear … and certainly more wonderfully mysterious!!! (After all, Elijah and Moses weren’t BORN divine, right? )
Emily, this is where you take over !!! …
You need to read the New Testament and let God tell you how much speaks to your heart and conscience. It’s a wonderful book… But it’s not all perfect. I don’t think Jesus would want you spitting into dirt and rubbing it into the eyes of people with vision problems. And despite the repeated references to faith being able to move mountains … no mountains have ever been moved.
But it’s still a pretty impressive book. Let God speak…
Have a very wonderful weekend!