To whom was Creation revealed?


Given the similarity to Babylonian stories, it would seem much more likely that they were borrowed from the Babylonians during the Babylonian captivity. Even the story about the Tower of Babel seems to be a direct attack on the Babylonian system of religions and their ziggurats. Unless you have evidence of the Jewish account predating the Enuma Elish, I would tend to lean towards the idea that the Babylonian myths predated the Jewish ones.

(Mark Moore) #22

Funny you should mention that one. There is a very ancient account, called “Enmerkar and the Lord of Aratta” which was thought to be lost for the last 4,000 years (including the time of the captivity). References in parts of that account seem to be talking about the time when languages were confused “in the whole earth” which it then lists as five or six kingdoms some of which are known and range in extent from modern Syria to Iran.

Archaeologist David Rohl - an agnostic I believe- has a lot of evidence to support the idea that Enmerkar is none other than the figure identified as Nimrod in Genesis chapter ten. And the idea that the Jewish priests invented a story that happened to mirror one that was lost in the region 1,000 years before the captivity seems less likely than the alternative.

Why is it so hard to accept the idea that when Abraham came to Canaan he carried tablets with him containing what amounts to family history? He came from the same area of the world where all these similar accounts are. Before they got to Ur his people, the Semitic people, originated in the mountains north of the plains of Iraq and they had a somewhat different version of the same account. You don’t even have to make a judgment about which of them has the original and which has the garbled version. Why is it necessary to insert this massive conspiracy to forge Genesis, as if the people of the day would not catch on when the priests suddenly announced that they had scrolls from Moses?

(Phil) #23

Good points. I think that it is somewhat driven by what tablets still exist and which are just conjecture. In any case, I think many if not most here agree with the idea that there were pre-existing documents/tablets/ oral traditions that form the basis of the current form of Genesis. On the other hand, the text of Genesis itself is testimony to the fact that it is a later writing, in such phrases as describing things “until this day” and referring to people groups that were established much later, which seems to go along with your thoughts also.


That seems like a massive stretch. First, Rohl is hardly the world’s expert and is considered a fringe figure. Judging by his books, he is probably not an agnostic.[quote=“Mark_Moore, post:22, topic:37398”]
Why is it so hard to accept the idea that when Abraham came to Canaan he carried tablets with him containing what amounts to family history?

For the same reason that it is hard to believe that the early story of the Odyssey was passed down through some mysterious and unknown lineage leading to the Cohen brothers, which then led to them to write “Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?” completely independent of the world famous work by Homer.[quote=“Mark_Moore, post:22, topic:37398”]
Why is it necessary to insert this massive conspiracy to forge Genesis, as if the people of the day would not catch on when the priests suddenly announced that they had scrolls from Moses?

Is the movie “Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?” a forgery simply because it retold the story of The Odyssey in modern terms? No. It is simply a retelling. Nothing wrong with that.

I don’t see why it would be a problem for Biblical authors to tell of their relationship with God through commonly known myths and legends.

(Mark Moore) #25

I don’t follow your analogy here, and to the degree I do it seems to support my argument. The Cohen brothers are not claiming that this is the original tale composed by Homer. They are openly saying it is a story derived from the original. If they suddenly announced today that they found some tablets with the “real” story from Homer and this was it then they would rightly be laughed out of town, or maybe have their sanity questioned. I suppose Joseph Smith got away with something like that but only with a very small fraction of the population to whom he individually promised great next-life rewards. Even in that case he did not try to claim the tablets had always been with him. They were discovered (and then conveniently taken before someone with the expertise to evaluate them properly could get a look).

In the same way, if the priests had, during or immediately after the exile, just announced “hey the Babylonians had all of these stories and it turns out we have just found these tablets written by Moses and they contain the true version of all of these stories you heard back in captivity” then I am pretty sure the reaction would have been about like our reaction would be to the Cohen brothers making claims that their version was the original. And we have zero evidence that they ever even made this claim. Instead things are as they would be if they always had this information with them as family history.

No, its not a forgery- because they never claim that it is the original tale from antiquity. They are not claiming someone else wrote it. If they did I predict that their claims would not be widely accepted- just as the claims of the priests would not be widely accepted if they suddenly came up with documents after the exile that no one had ever heard of before and claimed they were from the Lawgiver.

But I am sure you can understand why it is a problem to fraudulently present something as the work of Moses when it was really just you and your colleagues patching together something in the back room.

(Tom Larkin) #26

I very much respect your opinion, so could you let me know your response to my reply below:

There is much text in the Bible to show there superiority of God over the gods of the surrounding nations, for example, the Egyptian plagues were designed to show the superiority of God over the Egyptian gods, so this text in Genesis may have the same purpose.

With regard to Babylonian traditions being the source for Genesis, I would reference the work of Yehezkel Kaufman who stated “monotheism cannot evolve from polytheism as they are based on radically different world views.” There are similarities in form of worship, but the basic principle is quite different (the number of gods is actually irrelevant) The primary difference is that in all forms of polytheism, there is a Metadivine realm (MR) to which the gods are subject, they are born from the MR, they can die, and power is materially achieved through that which comes from the MR. Humans can tap into the MR through the use of “magic” to protect themselves from the gods, help a particular god or gain control over a god. The gods are both good and bad.

In contrast, the religion of Israel had a God that was the source of all creation, outside the metadivine realm and is only good. Humans, through service and faith, can have fellowship and blessing from God.

This is a radical break from polytheism, so what would be the source of this monotheistic approach?


It seems that you start with the assumption that they had these tablets, and then contort the evidence to fit that assumption.[quote=“Mark_Moore, post:25, topic:37398”]
But I am sure you can understand why it is a problem to fraudulently present something as the work of Moses when it was really just you and your colleagues patching together something in the back room.

Most historians agree that a guy named Homer probably didn’t write the Iliad or the Odyssey. They still list him as the author.

(Ronald Myers) #28

With respect to the Pentateuch, one reference point that should be noted is the Samaritan Pentateuch which is nearly identical to the Jewish one with dissimilar histories, specifically there was no exile in Babylon for the remnants of the northern tribes who escaped deportation. Further, since the Samaritans did not accept any of the Prophets and Writings, it suggests an early date for the Pentateuch.

As to what ancient Semitic documents were created when, see John H Walton Ancient Near Easter Thought and the Old Testament Chapter 3

(Ronald Myers) #29

In the end the Odyssey doesn’t make any claim on our life so true authorship is of minimal interest. Besides whose name would you call the author?

It is fraud to invent scripture but not fraud to collect and organize fragments/sub sections of previously recognized God breathed text. Since writing was invented at least by 3,000 bc, why try to avoid the idea that Hebrews could read and write, and that God provided revelation and at times perhaps validation of some legends and invalidation of others?

(Jon) #30

No one is trying to avoid that. What they’re doing is assessing the available evidence. Such as this.


Why choose that idea out of all the possible ideas? What God could do and what God did do are not necessarily the same thing.

[They say] “We do not know how this is, but we know that God can do it.” You poor fools! God can make a cow out of a tree, but has He ever done so? Therefore show some reason why a thing is so, or cease to hold that it is so.–William of Conches

(Ronald Myers) #32

This out of all possible ideas removes the idea of priestly fraud and, makes the near identicalness of the Samaritan Pentateuch understandable, does not insult the intelligence of the early Hebrews and is consistent with self reporting of the Bible.

Hebrews coming out of Egypt would have been familiar with writing since the Egyptians wrote all over their monuments. Those who knew Coptic could have read them since the hieroglyphs were pictures of single syllable Egyptian words. So early writing in some notation (early Hebrew as we understand it, Egyptian or cuneiform) which ended up in the Hebrew script are now familiar with is quite reasonable

(Lynn Munter) #33

Hold up a sec, I think you’ve got an assumption here that bears examination.

Where exactly in the Bible does it say that Moses wrote the whole first five books?

He wrote his “testimony” and the “Law,” and later Jewish thought certainly considered the whole first five books to be the “Law,” but does it say that specifically? How strong is the case?

If you haven’t read this before, you might find material of interest in it!

(Mark Moore) #34


I will look at that link, but to be clear I am not claiming that Moses wrote all of the first five books. Some of it was written after he died! I was specifically talking about the book of Genesis, he was actually the EDITOR of most of that. If you will scroll up to that video I posted five days ago you will see the video laying out the case for a modified version of the Tablet Theory being the best explanation for the first 36 chapters of Genesis.

(Lynn Munter) #35

I watched it, yes. Interesting and not impossible. I have been looking for a link I read some time ago about how early Genesis bears some signs of having been an orally transmitted story; I think the two hypotheses are not mutually incompatible.

I’ve also been reading the other chapters my last link: it took me a little time to realize one had to scroll back up and click on the title at the beginning to get to them.


Is there anywhere in the Bible where this is stated emphatically and unequivocally? Is this more of an apocryphal human tradition?

(George Brooks) #37


So… give up on the internal consistency a little. Moses could not have led the Exodus until after 1130 BCE.

Abraham could not have been in southern Canaan talking to the Philistines until the Philistines actually arrived in southern Canaan - - which archaeological evidence affirms was at most 50 years or so before they consolidated their holdings and blocked Egypt for centuries from accessing their traditional northern frontier in northern Syria.

Prior to the Philistine consolidation, Abraham would have been speaking with Egyptian messengers and passing Egyptian troops heading north, or Egyptian tax payers heading back to Egypt with their treasures.

And Moses and his rag tag group would have been systematically “harvested” by Egyptian armies going to and fro from Syria, to Beth Shean (which was an Egyptian stronghold not a Canaanite one) and back to Egypt. Kadesh Barnea, a vulnerable way station in the middle of nowhere, would not have been a 40 year pause - - it would have been an eternal grave site of Hebrew hopes.

The history of a Hebrew Exodus must start some time after 1130 BCE.

(Ronald Myers) #38

Like Ur of the Chaldees (Genesis 11:2 and following), the term Philistine could have been used by the redactors to name the geographical area that Abimelech resided in rather than the ethnicity of the residents at that time. Indeed the Arabic speaking residents of the area today call themselves Palastinians only one consonant removed from the ancient and certainly not Arabic culture.

Do you have a reference fro the sudden arrival quick Philistine dominance?

It also can be observed that a later date only makes a literate Moses and Israel more possible

Is Beth Shean the same as Beit Shan?

(Andrew M. Wolfe) #39

Fwiw, it’s not even one consonant removed.

As confirmed by Google Translate, they use the exact same word for “Palestinians” that the Arabic Bible uses for Philistines: فلسطيني. (filisṭīnī). (If you look at the Arabic Bible link, you’re looking for the word in the middle of the top line here from Judges 13:1.)


I understand it’s actually a problem when translating for typically pro-Palestinian Arabic-speaking audiences, because naive readers in that context are predisposed to root for the Philistines in all the stories where Philistines are supposed to be the bad guys. :slight_smile:

(George Brooks) #40


This is special pleading that has zero support anywhere. Before the Philistines, that part of the Coast was completely under control of Egypt. And the Abraham-centered narrative makes it clear there are no Egyptians anywhere around on the Eastern side of the Sinai. The Canaanite world depicted in that part of the Patriarchs is an Egyptian-free Canaan. There are only two periods this could relate to:

a) when the Hyksos ruled Egypt; and
b) when the Pelest/Philistines consolidated their hegemony over all of southern Israel.

The time period in (a) has to be dismissed because that would mean the Bible never noticed
the expulsion of the Hyksos, or the 400 years of Egyptian hegemony that came immediately

Naturally the region is referred to as Palestinian … but in fact, considerably more than the Philistine coast became generally referred to with the term Palestinian during the Persian/Hellenistic phase of Canaan’s
history. To claim that the Bible’s scribes applied the latter Philistine term for pre-Philistine people is tantamount to saying the scribes didn’t know anything about the region before 1130 BCE.

This is consistent with the very point I’m trying to make: the scribes knew nothing of the attempt of the Sea People to take possession of Egypt. They knew nothing of the settling of the defeated Philistines into what would become their Pentapolis. And they knew nothing of the ongoing conflict between the Philistines and the Egyptians who were no longer even able to exploit the copper mines on the Sinai like they used to. The one thing they do seem to know is that the Philistines were not native to the land, and they provide the bland (i.e. ignorant) immigration report of where the Philistines are said to have come from.

I will certainly encourage your linguistic equation: Pelest > Philistine > Palestine. This is, essentially, all the same word, but associated with different time periods, and having a different connotation in terms of the size of their holdings. I think it was Herodotus (but I’ll try to double-check that) who used the term Palestine to apply to everything from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River. This was possible because Judah was now a land without any borders. Persia had erased them. It was almost immediately after the Persian conquest of Egypt (which only last about a century) that the Egyptian villages occupied by the “Jeremiad Community” appear to have de-populated, because these now Egyptianized Jewish refugees (it is believed) returned to the area of Jerusalem.

Yes, to me Beth Shean and Beit Shan are the same locations. Sometime during the Hellenistic period, this town became known as Scythopolis… which probably means it became a Persian “army town”, since Scythian tribes were extensively used by Persia as low-cost military units.

I concur with you that a later date makes a literate Moses possible. Otherwise, I’m really not sure how you can expect one man to be a master writer in Egyptian hieroglyphics, Akkadian cuneiform and Proto-Sinaitic, during a time when it isn’t clear Proto-Sinaitic actually existed.

And finally: you ask for some sources on the Philistine transition in the Levant. This is not a formal journal article, but it’s very readable:

"The destruction of the Egyptian-allied city at Megiddo marked the end of Egyptian power in the Levant for the next several centuries, except for the three years following its reconquest by the Pharoah Shehsonq I of the 22nd Dynasty, 925-922 BCE. Palestina, as it was then known to the Greeks, didn’t come under the sway of Egypt again until its conquest by Ptolemy I in 301 BCE.

“Egypt ruled southern and central Palestine from 1530 BCE when they chased the Hyksos back into Palestine and northern Palestine and Lebanon from 1457 when they conquered Djahy, eventually conquering the entire Levant and part of Anatolia. The New Kingdom ruled all these areas, except for the territory the Hittites took from them down to Qatna with the defection of Amurru, until the Late Bronze Age Collapse, with the last bit of its hold there vanishing in 1130 BCE. Clearly, there was no room for the Israelites to escape from Egypt into the Land of Canaan because they would have just been “escaping” into more of Egypt.”

“In the midst of the collapse, other semi-nomadic Canaanite peoples, some previously mentioned in Egyptian records such as Edom and Moab, began to settle down and found territorial kingdoms for themselves and their posterity. Moab established its kingdom in 1250 BCE, Edom in 1180 BCE, Aram in 1115, and Ammon in 1000 BCE. The first two were definitely mentioned in Egyptian records, the latter being identified with the Shasu mentioned elsewhere though the Shasu are also identified with Aram.”

For a more academic treatment, please see this link for “Chapter II: Philistines - Settlement” (page 49) of Edward Lipinski’s 2006 book: “On the Skirts of Canaan in the Iron Age”.

LINK to Google Books digital preview for Lipinsky’s “On the Skirts of Canaan in the Iron Age”

Here is an excerpt:
“The clearest chronological criterion to date this [Philistine] invasion and its immediate aftermaths is the end of the maritime trade links with the Aegean and Cyprus, disrupted by the “Sea Peoples”, and the consequent disappearance of imported Mycenaean IIIB and Cypriot pottery. These wares were succeeeded, after a destruction of the city, by the first appearance of Philistine pottery.”

“The date of these events can be established on archaeological grounds. Imported Late Helladic or Mycenaean IIB and cypriot wares were found at Megiddo in Stratum VIIB and in Stratum VIIA[2], which is dated by the bronze bae of a statue of Ramesses VI (1141-1134 B.C.). This means that the disruption of the trade links with the Aegean and Cyprus happened only about 1140-1130 B.C. The destruction levels of the main Philistine cities, so far excavated, such as Ashdod, Ashkelon, Ekron, and Gath, must be dated therefore to ca. 1130 B.C., and be followed by partly new settlements with a distinct new culture. This is indeed the situation attested at these four sites, especially thanks to major amounts of locally produced Mycenaean IIC:1b pottery…”