My view of the Hebrew Bible...

I've been studying scientific and archaeological evidence for the Bible lately and wanted a place to document my conclusions.

Those of Judaism (who wrote these sacred scriptures and who don't consider their covenant with God superseded by the ministry of Jesus); they call these books the "Hebrew Bible", and so do I in respect of them.

Much of the Hebrew Bible is fiction, meaning, not scientifically accurate, or not historically accurate. The stories surely meant something to the people they were written for; perhaps we can sometimes guess at the correct meaning, but most likely usually not.

Interpretation must be done using the words and language of the writer. For example, the word "firmament" does not mean sky having clouds but, rather, the clear solid dome of the sky resting on a flat earth and having water above.

Very high level summary...

  1. Lots of fictional and allegorical stories up through David. These likely have roots in actual events, but we will never have clarity about these actual events. There are many theories and ideas, but I am not advocating for any of these.
  2. The Israelites were the first to learn of and introduce monotheism to the world. I suspect this happened via direct revelation to Adam, was passed-down via the patriarchs, and finally coalesced in the tribes of the Israelites.
  3. The Israelites were Canaanites, probably settling in the hill country. Perhaps a band of them (Levites?) had been in Egypt and escaped, finally joining the others from the south, bringing the name of Yahweh to them and demanding a special role in society.
  4. The Hebrew Bible was written late, compiled probably when in Babylonian captivity or later, from various texts; these written no sooner than from Solomon's time, perhaps additions from the northern kingdom of Israel, perhaps additions from the reign of king Josiah. I don't wish to advocate for any particular theory about the source texts used and their dates other than to compare with modern archaeology.
  5. After David, the historical accounts are more accurate.
  6. Most of the rites, rituals, laws, and cultural and religious practices of the Israelites (and later, the Jews) were invented by humans from various cultures around them. But they incorporated monotheism in all this.
  7. There seems to be visionary and prophetic passages, later interpreted and incorporated into Christianity. I assume the Holy Spirit injected these.

Errors...

  1. 6,000 years of human history. Some Christians continued the error.
  2. Philosophy from Aristotle, the Greeks, Philo of Alexandria, and others.
  3. Some try to reconcile archaeological data with the Bible by claiming the numbers in our modern translations are way too high, even as much as a factor of 100. An example, maybe only 20,000 Israelites in the exodus from Egypt. But in doing so they have to adjust hundreds of passages. Seems very contrived to me and doesn't make me trust their methods.

A serious problem is, the Hebrew Bible has the wrong concept of God. Critics notice this in saying there are two Gods; one for Old Testament, one for New Testament. Sadly, this wrong concept of God has infiltrated Christianity, in part, because they accept the Hebrew Bible as historically accurate in every smallest detail. They therefore are compelled to believe God commits genocide and such, and commands humans to do likewise, and that he is involved in every detail of human history.

In studying archaeology by Christians, I have the distinct impression they are trying to fit the data and observations into the framework they require in order to believe the stories in the Hebrew Bible as historically accurate. It often seems very contrived.

Regarding miracles: I generally reject the miracles of the Hebrew Bible, but not because I believe miracles are impossible. I reject them because they appear in the context of fictional writing.

I use B.C. and A.D. for dates.


Scientific Background

I assume modern science and modern archaeology to have the correct view of things regarding the material physical universe. Such things as...

  1. Universe and earth billions of years old.
  2. Earth is a sphere, not flat.
  3. Evolution occurs. (But I think it is directed as intelligent design claims, perhaps by spirit beings guiding the random events of the quantum mechanics wave function collapse.)
  4. First modern humans appeared 200,000 years ago in Ethiopia and migrated to all continents 60,000 to 30,000 years ago.
  5. No global flood.
  6. Humans had the capacity for language but probably didn't develop it until long after their appearance.
  7. Agriculture and the domestication of animals first began no sooner than 10,000 B.C.
  8. Writing began maybe 20,000 B.C. to 7,000 B.C. depending on what you define as writing.
  9. Civilization began maybe 9,000 B.C. to 3,200 B.C. depending on how you define it.

Anything in the Hebrew Bible contradicting this is either: (1) wrong, or (2) not interpreted properly.


Prophecy in the Hebrew Bible

It is common to find in the Hebrew Bible verses and passages having prophecy; these being foundations of Christianity. Often these are about the Messiah. But which verses qualify? Only those recognized by...

  1. A Jewish rabbi, or
  2. A Jewish sacred writing, or
  3. A New Testament writer

There are many prophecies about the new heavens and new earth. These are often misattributed to a yet-future 1,000 year millennium (I reject premillennialism).


Genesis

The Creation Story | The creation of humans | The fall of humans | Noah's flood


The Creation Story

There are two of them, quite different.

They are fiction, but contain truths...

  1. God is uncreated. (His creation is not mentioned like the creation of the gods are in the other creation stories of other cultures.)
  2. God is monotheistic.
  3. God created the universe, the earth, and living creatures.
  4. Humans have a special role in the created order. (In the creation stories of other cultures, humans are created as servants of the gods.)
  5. God's creation is good, including humans.
  6. The soul is created by God.

Here are the scientific errors...

  1. The earth is not flat.
  2. There is no firmament (dome of the sky) resting on the flat earth and having water above.
  3. Carnivores were not originally vegetarians. Many kinds of animals have always killed other creatures for food.
  4. The early humans were not vegetarians; they were hunter-gatherers for the first 190,000 years of human history.

It is wrong to interpret the creation story as if it were intending to present the modern view of cosmology and geology and anthropology. The writer clearly had an ancient view of creation.

We should wonder why humans invent creation stories since every ancient culture has one. Apparently, there is a deeply rooted appetite in the human soul to understand things, and so, they observe their surroundings and invent hypotheses and theories. But there was no way to validate the correctness of these early theories until the scientific revolution. Sadly, the many creationist Christians refuse to accept the views of modern science, and then wonder: (1) why the culture at large mocks Christianity, and (2) why Christianity is in decline.

Whether the days of creation correspond to 1,000 years, indicating there is to be 6,000 years of human history? Nonsense!

Whether the day of Genesis chapter 1 is a 24-hour day? Maybe so, but, it doesn't matter.

Whether there is a "gap" after Genesis 1:1? I doubt the writer had it in mind. This idea appeared only a couple hundred years ago.

God had foreknowledge of the outcome of creation. An example to illustrate how this works: I needed to fence the back yard for the dogs, so I saw the fence in my mind with the gate over here. But when digging a post hole, there was a large boulder in the way. So I saw in my mind the solution: put the gate over there instead. Now there is a fence exactly as I foresaw it. Foreknowledge is not seeing a physical reality from the future but, rather, a creative process; working from the present moment forward (knowledge looking forward).

Cosmonogy: earth a circle: note the same word used for flat earth and semi-spherical heavens.


The creation of humans

Many related topics...

  1. The creation of Adam from dust
  2. The garden of Eden
  3. Adam walks with God and names the animals
  4. The two trees and God's command
  5. Adam works in the garden
  6. The creation of Eve from Adam's side

Errors...

  1. That women are subservient to men

The fall of humans

Many related topics...

  1. The temptation of the serpent
  2. They eat
  3. They are judged and cast out of Eden

Errors about the fall...

  1. That pain, suffering, and death suddenly appeared.
  2. That carnivores suddenly evolved after the fall, growing fangs.
  3. That suddenly weeds, thorns, and thistles appeared.
  4. That animal sacrifice began at that time.
  5. That they began killing animals for sacrifice but not eating them (because they were still vegetarians until the time of Noah).

The serpent was just a talking snake. I'm not sure there is any good reason to think this snake is Satan or possessed by Satan or something like that, even though in Genesis 3:15 the curse of this snake refers to more than a snake.

A prophecy of the Messiah. Suddenly the snake is the spiritual power in the spiritual realm that has corrupted humanity (and all of creation). This is an example of prophecy in the Hebrew Bible which becomes prominent in Christianity.


Noah's flood 

Humans were very murderous and the Nephilim appeared, resulting in the flood to destroy all humans except Noah's line.

Establishes God's covenant with Noah. But it seems rather useless; all God promises is to not destroy the world by flood. He can destroy it some other way, by fire for example.

Errors...

  1. That the flood was global. Modern science refutes this.
  2. That, as many believe, there was no rain until the flood.
  3. Shem, Ham, and Japheth are not the ancestors of all humans. The first modern humans appeared 200,000 years ago in Ethiopia and migrated to all continents 60,000 to 30,000 years ago.
  4. That humans ever had lifespans of hundreds of years.

After Noah was the first civilization and the confusion of languages. But language probably developed many thousands of years before all this. Certainly, a common and sophisticated language was essential for civilization.

Notice the subtle emphasis on the Canaanites. Hebrew is a Canaanite language. The Israelites were Canaanites who moved first to the hill country and established a coalition of tribes with a distinct and independent identity from the Canaanites, even opposed to them and enemies of them.


Abraham

I think Abraham existed and was a monotheist, as were all the patriarchs starting with Adam and including Noah. The purpose of the stories and genealogies is to document the spread of monotheism.

Odd stories, probably fiction...

  1. Men telling the Egyptians their wife is their sister.
  2. Wives of patriarchs being barren.

Errors...

  1. The destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. There is no archaeological evidence for this (no, it's not under the Dead Sea which was present even back then) other than peculiar landforms (which are not cities).
  2. That angels became humans. Apparitions are possible, but these don't eat meals.
  3. Circumcision is barbaric, not of God.
  4. Offering Isaac as a human sacrifice. This is outrageous. It certainly isn't from God. It's pure fiction.

In the new heavens and new earth the promises of possession of the land will finally be fulfilled. I think the 144,000 of Revelation will inhabit the land as described in the last chapters of Ezekiel.

The birth of nations and people's surrounding Israel are told, usually in unflattering stories. These are fiction, or at least there is no reason to believe them.

Men having multiple wives demonstrates the social order was seriously flawed; surely there is a better way to ensure everyone is taking care of? Oh wait, we can't even do this today, thousands of years later, even in our modern era. And women are still oppressed and exploited and disrespected.


The 12 Tribes

The Israelites did have tribes. Probably the stories of the 12 tribes was pure fiction, to provide an explanation for the origin of these and exhort them to consider themselves as one people.

Joseph in Egypt as second in charge: pure fiction. Perhaps there were some Canaanites who were enslaved in Egypt and later escaped, rejoining with others who had branched off becoming Israelites. Trying to piece together stories such as these from the archaeological records results in explanations that don't match the biblical text; the chronology is off, with hundreds of years between events purported to be within a single generation, and arbitrarily choosing which Pharaoh matches the biblical one. Even Christian archaeologists can't agree.


Exodus

Errors...

  1. The 10 plagues of Egypt of Moses. There are clearly provable errors in this story. For example, all plant life is destroyed in a plague yet remains intact only to be destroyed again in another plague. And in one plague all the cattle were killed yet there were still cattle to be killed in a subsequent plague.
  2. That 2 to 3 million people wandered in close proximity through a barren desert for 40 years eating manna and drinking water from a rock. There is not enough vegetation to support their flocks (the animals didn't have manna).
  3. That these former slaves and shepherds became master warriors able to defeat the warrior tribes they encountered.
  4. That these former slaves who lived in Goshen many miles away from the Egyptians were able to convince them to give them gold, jewels, weapons, all the materials used in building the tabernacle, and all kinds of other wealth. And, that they were able to cart all this stuff around the desert while fleeing from the Egyptian army.

Torah

If you notice, there is a progression in the covenant from God. It keeps morphing from one thing to another. This continues even through the prophets.

Jesus hints that the Torah is not to be believed at face value. And just because Jesus refers to Moses as the originator of various laws and traditions, does not mean he thought Moses actually wrote it; he's just considering the traditions in their own right, not trying to convince them these traditions are wrong. Jesus does this same kind of thing with the Sadducees regarding the resurrection even using their definition of the term.

The Israelites were once Canaanites who split off and formed a separate identity. Hebrew is a Canaanite language.

The Israelites did not always use the name for God of Yahweh. Probably there were two groups of monotheists struggling for dominance and each using a different word for God.


Joshua

Some of the conquests occurred as stated, but over 800 years, not in one generation.