From Gods to God: How the Bible Debunked, Suppressed, or Changed Ancient Myths & Legends

From Gods to God: How the Bible Debunked, Suppressed, or Changed Ancient Myths & Legends

From Gods to God: How the Bible Debunked, Suppressed, or Changed Ancient Myths & Legends

From Gods to God: How the Bible Debunked, Suppressed, or Changed Ancient Myths & Legends

Synopsis

The ancient Israelites believed things that the writers of the Bible wanted them to forget: myths and legends from a pre-biblical world that the new monotheist order needed to bury, hide, or reinterpret. Ancient Israel was rich in such literary traditions before the Bible reached the final form that we have today. These traditions were not lost but continued, passed down through the ages. Many managed to reach us in post-biblical sources, rabbinic literature, Jewish Hellenistic writings, the writings of the Dead Sea sect, the Aramaic, Greek, Latin, and other ancient translations of the Bible, and even outside the ancient Jewish world, in Christian and Islamic texts. The Bible itself sometimes alludes to these traditions, often in surprising contexts. Written in clear and accessible language, this volume presents thirty such traditions. It voyages behind the veil of the written Bible to reconstruct what was told and retold among the ancient Israelites, even if it is "not what the Bible tells us."

Excerpt

The twenty-four books that constitute the Hebrew Bible were written over the course of roughly one thousand years, during which time they gradually reached their final form. The purpose of these books was to teach readers about themselves: who they were, where they came from, what their relations were with other nations. Most importantly, the Hebrew Bible aimed to persuade readers of the existence of one god and of their relationship with that god. The Bible was the manifesto of the revolutionary thinkers who were its writers: it was the manifesto of the monotheistic revolution.

Though the writers of the Bible may have lived hundreds of years apart, they spoke with one another through their writings, each adding his words to the growing canon. Indeed, the Bible is not merely a collection of books but a network of connections in which stories talk to poems and laws to prophecies. Two brief examples illustrate the phenomenon.

The genealogy of David’s ancestry in the book of Ruth (written in about the fifth century BCE) supplies information that was missing from the (earlier) book of Samuel, which, when it introduces the youthful David to us for the first time, relates almost nothing about his ancestry except for the name of David’s father. The writer of Samuel had his reasons for not describing David’s background. For one thing, he wanted David to prove himself as a leader and so to be seen as a self-made king. But the writer of Ruth, who lived a few centuries . . .

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