God Needs a History Lesson
So, the Bible. Ask any sort of practicing Christian about it and they will rhyme off that it is the unchanging Word of God. As such, it must be the final say on everything, including history. Who but God would have the most objective, impartial and accurate take on the events that have come to pass? After all, he was a first-hand witness (being all-seeing he has perfect access to every event that has ever taken place, including seeing you pooping and screwing – God is a cosmic voyeur). Naturally, future generations should be astonished by the accuracy of the Bible as God can never make a mistake. Archaeologists are surely uncovering evidence all the time vindicating the verses of the Bible for all to see? By now, even the hardest nosed atheist aught to be reconsidering their belief in the Almighty, right? Er, well.
Alas, the believer who opens up a history book with the hope of re-reading what he has already read in the Holy Scripture, will be unpleasantly surprised.
Many of the events described in the Old Testament simply didn’t happen. Herodotus, the most renowned ancient Greek historian is famous for his exaggerations and bias. But he, in contrast to Jehovah, at least gets the essence of the events right.
This is a list of scandalous fallacies, which would get God or his prophets an F in every serious history class.
We will not even start with the Deluge, which is a geologically impossible event, we will also turn a blind eye to the problem with the Earth being populated twice by severe forms of incest – the first time by Adam and Eve and the second – by Noah’s family (this should be renamed Inbred Earth theory) which is a tad biologically impossible. We are just going to agree with Catholic apologetics and not take these conveniently illogical occurrences ‘literally’.
God Takes A History Lesson: The Exodus Myth
There is a popular Hollywood trope which shows Hebrew slaves toiling on the Great Pyramids, in Giza. The image of the Hebrew’s blood, sweat and tears raising the pyramid from the earth to sky has been burned into our culture. The fact is, the Jews pyramid building career may have been slightly exaggerated, indeed it is possible that the Jews may never have been to Egypt in the first place. This explains why the Bible never even once mentions any pyramids (seriously, who goes to Egypt and conveniently fails to notice the Pyramids?).
According to the Bible, a Hebrew – Joseph, became an Egyptian pharaoh and helped his compatriots settle in Egypt in the land of Goshen. The Jews enjoyed peace and prosperity until the coming of a new pharaoh who took away their rights and subjected them to slavery. Then came along Moses who was chosen by God to lead the Jews out of Egypt. Moses brought severe, devastating plagues to Egypt while trying to convince the stubborn pharaoh to let the Jews go. He even split the Red Sea to allow the Jews to pass safely into Sinai, where they spent 40 years roaming through the desert, before invading Canaan and destroying Jericho (nice of them).
This super well known story however, has a few blatant absurdities. First of all, we find no confirmation by any outside sources (surely miracles and a mass escape of slaves would stir a little gossip?). The Egyptians are known for the outstanding detail and accuracy with which they recorded their history. There was a literal army of professional scribes who recorded every other step of the pharaoh, every conquest and every facet of Egyptian social life. In this detailed record there is not a single trace of any Jewish slave population. Noy any mention of the apocalyptic ten plagues, which must have left a lasting trace in the memory of every Egyptian (probably more than a little mental trauma after the death of the first borns). The Bible account estimates the number of the Jews who exited Egypt at 600, 000 people. For a total Egyptian population of around 3 million, this would have been a demographic and economic calamity. Yet not a single historian in Egypt, or in another state, mentioned this mass emigration even in passing.
Never mind the fact that nobody seems to be talking about it, we are still struggling to figure out exactly when the Exodus was meant to have happened. Most interpretations of the Biblical account say it happened c. 1200 BC, during the reign of Ramesses II. However, archaeologists found no evidence of Jewish settlements in Egypt from that time. The fall of Jericho is supposed to have happened some 50 years afterwards and shortly after that – the first temple was to be built. However, Palestine in the 12th and 11th centuries BC is a desolate place with traces only of small Phoenician communities. Nothing resembling the mighty Jewish state from the Bible appeared until after the 9th century BC. Besides, archaeologists agree that Jewish culture was indigenous to Palestine. The Jews never invaded Canaan as conquerors. They were simply Phoenicians, as their clothes, buildings and religious rituals show. In contrast to other Phoenicians, however, they abandoned the old Pantheon, centered on El and Asherah and started worshiping exclusively only one deity.
Other historians put the Exodus around the 15th century BC. During this century, Canaan, the land where the Jews fled to and where they formed their state, was… an Egyptian province. So the Jews, in this scenario ran away from pharaoh, just to go to another of pharaoh’s provinces. Hardly an ‘escape’ to remark upon, it is like fleeing from London to Manchester and expect that the police will just leave you alone.
The Jews claim to have stayed in the Sinai desert for forty years. Specific places are given in the Bible – Kadesh Barnea and Ezion Geber . None of those, however were settled up until the 7th century BC. The Jews miraculously left not a single footprint (almost like they were not even there).
The Jews are said to have been forced by their Egyptian overlords to build two cities – Pithom and Pie Ramses. However, those did not even exist in the same century. The Jews might have been time travelers, or, perhaps the whole story was concocted centuries later.
There is the possibility that the ten plagues in the Bible story are a distant echo of the turmoil during and after pharaoh Akhenaten’s rule. Amenhotep prohibited the worship of the old gods, destroyed many of their temples and introduced monotheism in Egypt. His reign was characterized with various natural disasters like famine and drought. Some authors even propose that the famine was deliberately caused by disgruntled Egyptian priests who artificially spread a disease on the wheat in the barns to cause discontent and insurgency.
After Akhenaten’s short rule his reforms were rescinded, he was declared an apostate and his name was obliterated from all Egyptian records. It is possible that some of the Canaanites who lived in Egypt at that time left the country during this time of turmoil, but again, there are some contradictory facts. First of all, they would still be fleeing one Egyptian province to another, and it would have had disastrous effects on the Egyptian economy. It is possible that only a few Semitic clans left, but it was not a historically significant event in any case and this is honestly, just a wild guess.
Fun Fact – some Cabbalists deny that the Exodus was a historical event and claim that it was a metaphor for moving between the Sephirah.
God Takes a History Lesson: No great Jewish conquests and no Jewish kingdom
The Bible tells us that after the Exodus, the Jews conquered Canaan, killed all the Canaanites, destroyed Jericho and established a mighty Jewish state. This new state waged successful wars on all the surrounding states – Edom, Philistine, Moab, etc. At one point the Angel of Death (yeah, things got that dramatic) exterminated a whole army of Ammonites. Jehovah is represented as invincible and his enemies – as fleeing from the Arc of the Covenant.
Sources external to the Bible give us the following, rather different picture:
“And Chemosh said to me, Go take Nebo against Israel, and I went in the night and I fought against it from the break of day till noon, and I took it: and I killed in all seven thousand men, but I did not kill the women and maidens, for I devoted them to Ashtar-Chemosh; and I took from it the vessels of Jehovah, and offered them before Chemosh.”
The Moabites seem to have conquered the Jewish capital and taken away the most sacred Jewish relics. This defeat is conveniently omitted from the Bible.
Indeed, there is not a single shred of evidence of any conquest in Palestine from the south. Canaanite cultures continued to flourish. Actually, a recent study found that the Lebanese are the actual descendants of the Canaanites – so the Jewish God didn’t do a great job exterminating them after all.
There is no tertiary source of evidence for the existence of a great united Kingdom of Israel between 1200 BC and 900 BC. Actually there is no evidence of the existence of a great united kingdom of Israel ever.
What was designated in the Bible as Israel was in fact a patchwork of small Semitic states fighting for control. Even in the Bible itself, there is a constant tension between different Hebrew factions in the so-called ‘united’ Kingdom of Israel. There are even suggestions of civil wars between the tribes of Judah and Benjamin.
Northern kings, such as Jeroboam, are routinely accused of worshiping idols and straying from the path of Jehovah. Even kings supposed to be loyal to Jehovah, such as Saul, are described using occult spiritualism and relying on witches to foretell the future – a practice explicitly forbidden in the Torah. Instead of a united kingdom with a single monotheistic religion, we see, even in the Bible itself, warring factions with different religious ideas. We see the religion of Jehovah struggling to impose itself even within Israel itself, let alone in foreign territories. Jehovah seems suspiciously unpopular among his worshipers, despite the great victories he supposedly bestowed upon them.
There are no external sources from neighboring countries that mentioned a great Jewish kingdom. The first mention of Judea is from 750 BC, and the first mention of Israel is from 890 BC. Almost all references reveal that the two Jewish states were weak, almost always being forced to pay tribute to the surrounding mighty empires – the Assyrians and Egyptians.
This period is well after the glorious Jewish victories under the Judges – 1100 BC, if we are to follow the Bible’s chronology. Jerusalem during the reigns of David and Solomon (c.a. 1000 BC) was just a small settlement. The Philistine city of Gath (birthplace of Goliath) was four times bigger than Jerusalem at that time. So the stories about Israel kicking the Phillistine’s backside probably never happened, indeed they were probably paying them tribute to prevent being kicked themselves.
Many historians see the United Kingdom of Israel as a pre-historic myth, concocted during the Babylonian exile. The language of the Book of Samuel itself gives that away. The book talks about iron picks and axes, describing events from the Late Bronze Age. Just take a moment and remember basic history, and think about that!
There are no inscriptions mentioning the State of Israel. No rings of Israelite kings from the 10th century BC found. There was not a single foreign traveler marveling at the temple of Jerusalem. It is about as real as Atlantis, and a whole lot less interesting.
God Takes a History Lesson: No David. No Solomon. No Temple.
The historicity of David and Solomon (the top dogs of Jewish history) is highly contestable. Many historians view them as folk heroes, similar to the Greek Odysseus and Achilles. Although some agree that they were historical figures, they reckon that they were local chieftains with limited power, a great deal of a difference from the grand Kings of mainstream history. Most agree that the Kingdoms of Israel and Judah developed separately and that David and Solomon must have been leaders of the southern kingdom of Judah. Some even view them solely as Levite religious leaders, not as political figures.
Jerusalem was not at all the glorious city of God described in the Bible. It was inhabited by barely 1000 people c.a. 1000 BC.
Currently, there are no excavations on Temple Mount for political and religious reasons, so the existence of the First Temple in history cannot be proved or disproved with certainty. Many third-party references to the temple have been proved to be forgeries. Even if such a structure existed, it was not the magnificent temple described in the Bible, but a modest sanctuary (a shack in the outback). Author Philip Gardiner dismisses the historical existence of such a building entirely in his book Gnosis: The Secrets of Solomon’s Temple Revealed. He claims that the Temple is to be viewed solely as a metaphor for one’s soul and the ways it can achieve enlightenment.
If that is not enough, we will analyze in the next article the historical inaccuracies in the New Testament. Although newer and more well-referenced, it still contains major bloopers. Like two Gospels disagreeing on the date Jesus was born.
By Simon Vlahov