My Methodologies, Pre-suppositions and Biases.
15 September 2002
Revisions through 07 June 2008
Please click here for this website's most important article: Why the Bible Cannot be the Word of God. For Christians visiting this website _my most important article_ is The Reception of God's Holy Spirit: How the Hebrew Prophets _contradict_ Christianity's Teachings. Please click here.
Evaluating Internet Research Sources by Robert Harris should be read by everyone, click here.
Having identified my research strategies as being of an Anthropological and Secular-Humanist nature, it behooves me to explain to the viewer what is involved under this viewpoint.
Humanists take the Bible to be a historical relic, to be studied with the same critical tools as are employed in the study of literary works, be they ancient or modern.
The dialogs or speeches that occur in the Bible are understood by Humanists to be fictious, arising from the mind or imagination of the narrator. At times the narrator also creates imaginary scenes or events to promote the points he wishes to make with his audience or readers. All ancient authors worked this way, Greek, Roman, Egyptian, Mesopotamian, and the Hebrews too.
Grant on ancient historians' use of fictional speeches or dialogs:
"The writings of the Greek and Roman historians are full of speeches. They could not possibly have been delivered in the forms in which they were reported. For one thing, nobody had taken down full notes of them at the time, and there were no handouts describing their contents. Second, the language in which the historians reported them is very often their own, and not that of the speakers...what the historians put down, as an alleged record of such speeches, was a vital part of ancient historiography, because it reflected the backgrounds and explanations of events and the characters, motives, intentions, aims, expectations and reactions of the principal participants. The speeches, therefore, with which the works of the ancient historians are filled form a vital part of their historical picture...they are not history in the modern sense of the word, because they are unauthentic; if they ever took place at all, they were not delivered in those terms, or even with those contents. Thus, speeches form an enormous barrier between ancient ideas of historiography and our own conceptions of the same activity." (pp. 44-45, "Speeches, Digressions and Cycles," Michael Grant. Greek and Roman Historians, Information and Misinformation. Routledge. London & New York. 1995. ISBN 0-415-11770-4 pbk)
Grant on viewing ancient histories (which would include the Bible's "History") from a modern perspective:
"Ancient and modern historiography are two quite different things...What we ought to be doing is approaching ancient historians as the writers of literature which they are...Our primary response to the texts of the ancient historians should be literary rather than historical since the nature of the texts themselves is literary. Only when literary analysis has been carried out can we begin to use these texts as evidence for history...historiography in antiquity is a literary genre...judged by literary criteria...To sum up, it is necessay to repeat, once again, that ancient history was understood not as history, according to our meaning of the word, but as literature... Mommsen was not far wrong when he classified historians among artists rather than scholars, believing that it was artists that they had to be. 'A writer was not called a historian unless he had considerable pretensions to style. A historian had to entertain, and for that purpose he did not need truth as much as wit." (pp. 98-99, Grant)
Professor Long discusses Alter's statement about the authors of the Hebrew Bible employing literary devices usually associated with fictional prose works (What we today would call Historical Fiction, such as Gone With The Wind, a novel full of "imaginary dialogues" from Scarlett O'Hara and Rhet Butler, in a historical setting, the Civil War, 1861-1865):
"Alter...goes so far as to claim that "prose fiction is the best general rubric for describing biblical narrative"...He writes..."The point is that fiction was the principal means which the biblical authors had at their disposal for realizing history." (pp. 232-233. V. Phillips Long. "History and Fiction: What is Fiction?" V. Philips Long. Editor. Israel's Past in Present Research, Essays on Ancient Israelite Historiography. Winona Lake, Indiana. Eisenbrauns. 1999. ISBN 1-57506-028-0)
"...history is used in two quite distinct senses- to refer to the past itself and to interpretive verbal accounts of the past...What about the term fiction? To the average person, who tends to regard history and fiction as virtual opposites, a statement like the one by Alter quoted above- "fiction was the principal means which the biblical authors had at their disposal for realizing history"- will seem like nonsense. But Alter explains:
"The essential and ineluctable fact is that the narrative portions of the Hebrew Bible are organized on literary principles, however intent the authors may have been in conveying an account of national origins and cosmic beginnings and a vision of what the Lord God requires of man. We are repeatedly confronted, that is, with shrewdly defined characters, artfully staged scenes, subtle arrangements of dialogue, artifices of significant analogy among episodes, recurrent images and motifs and other aspects of narrative that are formally identical with the means of prose fiction as a general mode of verbal art."
(pp. 234-235. V. Phillips Long. "History and Fiction: What is Fiction?" V. Philips Long. Editor. Israel's Past in Present Research, Essays on Ancient Israelite Historiography. Winona Lake, Indiana. Eisenbrauns. 1999. ISBN 1-57506-028-0; citing from p. 24, Robert Alter. The Art of Biblical Narrative. New York. Basic Books. 1981)
Professor Batto (1992) on the Hebrews recasting of earlier Mesopotamian myths and motifs in the Hebrew Bible:
"...I want to emphasize that this new mythmaking process is a conscious, reflected application of older myths and myhic elements to new situations...In so far as one admits the presence of myth in ancient Babylonian and Canaanite culture, then one must also admit the presence of myth in the Bible...This book, then, is a series of case studies of mythmaking in ancient Israel, or to be more exact, in the biblical tradition." (pp. 13-14. "Introduction." Bernard F. Batto. Slaying the Dragon, Mythmaking in the Biblical Tradition. Louisville, Kentucky. Westminster/John Knox Press. 1992)
"Now the Yahwist's primeval narrative is itself a marvelous example of mythmaking based upon prior Mesopotamian myths, notably Atrahasis and Gilgamesh. Interestingly, the reappropriation of mythic traditions and intertextual borrowing posited for biblical writers was already present within ancient Babylonia, and illustrates that biblical writers must be understood within the larger ancient Near Eastern literary and theological tradition." (p. 14. "Introduction." Bernard F. Batto. Slaying the Dragon, Mythmaking in the Biblical Tradition. Louisville, Kentucky. Westminster/John Knox Press. 1992)
"The theme of this volume...is, of myth and mythmaking speculation within the Hebrew Bible...biblical writers employed much the same techniques and even the same mythic motifs as their ancient Near Eastern neighbors...Israel...drew heavily upon the Babylonian myth of Atrahasis, supplementing with motifs from Gilgamesh and other traditional myths, to create a specifically Israelite primeval myth...Like their ancient Near Eastern counterparts, Israel's theologians were concerned with the place of humankind -and particularly of their own people- within the realm of being." (pp. 168-169. "Conclusion." Bernard F. Batto. Slaying the Dragon, Mythmaking in the Biblical Tradition. Louisville, Kentucky. Westminster/John Knox Press. 1992)
"The focus of this volume has been the various ways in which biblical writers throughout the history of the composition of the Hebrew Bible have used and reused myth...to undergird their religious and/or sociopolitical agenda. My purpose...has been only to show through representative examples how biblical authors actually went about using mythic motifs in their writing and how they consciously manipulated these to serve their specific purposes." (pp. 171-172. "Conclusion." Bernard F. Batto. Slaying the Dragon, Mythmaking in the Biblical Tradition. Louisville, Kentucky. Westminster/John Knox Press. 1992)
Every reader brings his biases to a written work, it follows that every writer is influenced by his/her biases and these appear in his/her composition. Biases also guide one's evaluation of evidence, and conclusions.
When reading any work, it behooves the reader to be aware of his own biases and also be on the lookout for the author's biases.
My research is influenced by Keith Whitelam's recent work that posits that all histories are political documents ( Keith W. Whitelam. The Invention of Ancient Israel, the Silencing of Palestinian History. Routledge. London & New York. 1996. ISBN 0-415-10759-8 pbk). They glorify to some extent the narrator's own people (that doesn't mean that he can't be critical at times of his own people), and denigrates "the enemies" of his people. Histories have agendas which compete with other, sometimes unknown agendas. The narrator seeks to justify, rationalize, or make excuses for the past ill-treatment his people have rendered to their so-called enemies.
Some authors have an "axe to grind," they seek to win the reader /audience over to their viewpoint. They attempt to convince the reader their view is correct and others are wrong.
Ancient authors at times project the views or attitudes of their present world onto their historical characters, creating a false impression that the current concepts were the concerns of a thousand years ago. Some authors lie, and present their work as falsely being the work of some ancient worthy, in order to garner respect and breakdown opposition to new or unpopular viewpoints. Critical readers must look for clues suggesting the work may be not what it claims to be, an ancient long lost composition recently "discovered."
If an ancient work has been falsely claimed to be older than it is, there exists a critical apparatus whereby a critical scholar can estimate the more probable period of its true composition.
Claims have been made that in the course of the 16th or 15th century B.C. Moses wrote the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Old Testament), but internal clues have suggested it was composed during the Exilic or Post-Exilic period, that is, between circa 640-458 B.C. (the eras of King Josiah and later of Ezra) according to some scholars. Some of my articles under the Old Testament deal in greater depth on this subject.
Mainstream "Critical" Bible Scholars and Archaeologists have determined that the biblical presentation of early Israel's origins, especially the Exodus and Conquest, are contradicted by archaeological findings. They have accordingly sought answers to Israel's origins that are "in harmony with" the archaeological data. They conclude that the biblical traditions at times are not reliable. Bietak, an Egyptologist, addressing Critical Scholars' attempts to understand Early Israel's origins, and speaking of "misleading traditions" preserved in the biblical account, observes:
"In order to facilitate our look at the objectives of Old Testament studies, we may define these objectives in the following way:
1. The historical truth behind the story.
2. How the traditions transformed the historical events.
The first of the objectives can probably never be achieved, but there is some chance of approaching objective number one indirectly by first exploring objective number two. But in order to present something new we need new sources and when they are not available from the Old Testament documents, we have to try to integrate new sources from outside Old Testament studies. In the following, an example from our own studies will be presented, in order to illustrate how it may be possible to sort out and explain misleading traditions in order to isolate more likely possibilities." (pp.163-4. Manfred Bietak. "Comments on the Exodus." Anson F. Rainey, editor. Egypt, Israel, Sinai. Tel Aviv University, Israel. 1987)
My research on this website attempts to follow the "Critical" approach enumerated by Bietak, that is, ALL explanations about Early Israel's Origins MUST BE IN HARMONY with the archaeological data and NOT contradict that data.
I would like to point out to the viewer that two schools of inquiry exist regarding the Bible and its historicity. The Critical school, which I identify with, which understands that the archaeological data must be used in explaining Israel's "true" origins, and that the archaeological data "DOES CONTRADICT," at times, the biblical presentation.
The second school of thought is the "Conservative/Fundamentalist" which argues that the BIble is the word of God, it has no error, it is God's TRUTH, and that if archaeology "contradicts" the biblical presentations, that the archaeologists must be "in error" in interpreting the archaeological findings. This school challenges inferences made by Critical scholars and Archaeologists alleging "contradictions" exist, by several different stratgems or arguments, such as, 1. The archaeological data is being misinterpreted. 2. The archaeological sites have been mis-identified (if their contents "contradict" the biblical portrayal). 3. The "wrong" chronology must be in place, thus wrong conclusions are being drawn from the archaeological data. 4. The archaeological evidence for the Exodus being missing in the Sinai (no Late Bronze Age campsites being found) is because Nomads leave no traces of themselves and Israel was portrayed in the biblical narratives as nomadic. 5. "The absence of evidence is NOT absence of the event actually having occured."
The claim is made by a trained archaeologist and Christian apologist Bryant G. Wood, PhD., that archaeology does NOT challenge the historical reliability of the Bible, but verifies it. The underlying "presumption" of this apologist
appears to be that the Bible is the word of God, its never wrong, and any interpretation of the archaeological evidence that suggests the Bible is in error is therefore a WRONG interpretation, or WRONG (misidentified) site, or a WRONG (misdated) pottery chronology:
"Archaeological discoveries verify the historical reliability of the Old and New Testaments.When compared to other religious books, the Bible is unique in that it is the oldest, as testified by the places, people, titles, and events mentioned in the Bible; and the language and literary formats used to compose the Bible. Many scholars today question the validity of Biblical accounts, supposedly based on the findings of archaeology. When the "discrepancies" are examined in detail, however it is found that the problems lie with the archaeology (i.e. misinterpretation of evidence, lack of evidence, or poor scholarship) and not with the Bible."
This apologists' peers or archaeological colleagues _have challenged_ some of his "re-interpretations" of the archaeological data in his efforts to "harmonize" such data with the Bible's portrayal of events. His "re-interpretations" however find a welcome ear from fellow Bible-believers who are upset with claims from other archaeologists that certain events appearing in the Bible are NOT supported by the archaeological evidence.
In essence, the Critical scholars, noting archaeological aomalies vis-a-vis the biblical narratives, are SEARCHING FOR THE TRUTH by presenting new theories at "variance" to the biblical stories, whereas the "Conservatives/Fundamentalists," (Bible-believers) convinced they already POSSESS THE TRUTH, spend their time DEFENDING this Truth by pointing out the problems inherent in interpreting archaeological data and the CONTRADICTORY conclusions being drawn, which vary from Critical scholar to Critical scholar.
Humanists understand that ALL religions are the product of the human imagination, created to explain phenomena not understood by ancient man. For example, ancient man did not know of bacteria and viruses as a cause of illness, he thought a god in anger had inflicted illness upon a trespasser, and he prayed to the gods to forgive him and restore his health. Ancient man came to realize he was the most clever being on the planet, but, how to account the presence of everything, a god must have made it! A god made in man's image (except man was declared to have been made in god's image). Humanists work on a credo that "What the mind of Man has created, the mind of man can unravel." This viewpoint is embraced at this website. Reason, rationality, deductive analysis in combination with the findings of archaeology, are pursued in attempting to understand the origins of Israel's beliefs as presented in the Bible. God is understood not to have been "revealed" but to have "evolved" from progressive re-interpretations and transformations through the ages, via "new twists to ancient motifs" as noted by Lambert.
In one's search for "THE TRUTH" is Truth to be determined by invoking "Faith and Divine Revelation" or by the use of "Reason and Rationality"? For me, Truth is determined by the employment of the latter.
The following "Rationalist Manifesto" echos my own perspective:
"A Rationalist is one who finds reliance on reason as the basis for establishment of religious truth; one who holds the view that reason and experience rather than the nonrational are the fundamental criteria in the solution of problems. Our focus is to educate on issues of importance; to encourage men, women, and children to think for themselves; To eliminate the need for religious protection; and most importantly, to point the lost toward logic which is our only hope for eternal salvation. "
As regards an Anthropological viewpoint- Anthropologists are interested in studying cultures, Primitive and Advanced/Modern to understand the mechanisms behind their existence. Using this view, Israel's beliefs are understood to have evolved over time, from cultures which preceeded it and which were contemporary. The bible describes Israel's "great sin" as having not obeyed God, for which she was sent into Exile. She did not "ethnically cleanse" the land of Canaan as directed, slaughtering all its inhabitants, but instead she dwelt amongst the Canaanites, married them and worshipped their gods (cf. Judges 3:5-8 for an excellent succint summary). Viewed from an Anthropological viewpoint, Israel's "Great Sin" was ACCULTURATION or Assimiliation to Canaanite ways. Anthropologists understand that Acculturation and Assimilation are ever-present in all societies, despite those societies attempts to have a "Closed Society" to protect the "ways of the ancestors." Acculturation ALWAYS wins. The Mongols conquered China, but in the end the superior civilization ACCULTURATED them, "the Conqueror became the Conquered," just the same happened to Israel, she conquered Canaan, but sophisticated, urbane Canaan "acculturated" Israel! The bible describes the patriarchs as "wandering Arameans," (De 26:5), but by the days of Hezekiah, Israel/Judah had forgotten her "native" tongue, Aramaic (2 Ki 18:26-28), that is, the great-great-grandsons and daughters of the intermarriages of Canaanites and Israelites (Judges 3:5-7) had adopted the Canaanite tongue (Isa 19:18), ACCULTURATION had triumphed over Israel, she had failed to maintain a closed society!
"Arguments from Silence," Flawed Methodologies?
From time to time I receive a number of complaints by "believers" that many of my articles posted on this website employ a flawed methodology known as "arguments from silence."
When I point out _the absence_ of physical archaeological evidence in corroborating an event in the Bible, calling "into question" the veracity of Holy Writ, I am accused of using a "questionable" methodology.
A frequent response from my critics is to the effect that "The absence of evidence is NOT proof that the event did not occur." Followed up by "rationalizations" or "explanations" for the said absence of the evidence.
For me, the statement "The absence of evidence in NOT proof that the event did not occur," is in itself, a CLASSIC ARGUMENT FROM SILENCE. That is to say, "even though we have no physical evidence in the archaeological record to support the truth of the bible, that the event really occurred, one ought to still believe it happened."
It would appear that for some of my critics, that the employment of "Arguments from Silence" is legitimate and good methodology when employed in defense of Holy Writ, and illegitimate and bad methodology when used to call into question the veracity of Holy Writ.
My response is, "What is sauce for the Goose is sauce for the Gander;" if they can employ "arguments from silence" in defense of Holy Writ, then so can I in questioning Holy Writ.
A common argument from the faithful regarding my allegations that the Hebrews have borrowed and reformatted earlier Mesopotamian concepts and motifs is that critical investigations note the DIFFERENCES between these peoples.
I do NOT see a "need" for the Hebrews to be WITLESS SLAVISH COPYCATS of earlier religious concepts and motifs. I allow them great artistry, ingenuity and innovativeness in creatively reformatting and transforming earlier religious concepts. Thus I do NOT see the "differences" in the details and minutiae of the religious beliefs, concepts, found in the myths as "proof" that there was NO borrowing by the Hebrews as argued by some Conservative scholars.
However, let it be acknowledged here, that in a search for "The Truth," one MUST study _both sides_, so, dear reader, I would encourage you to pause a moment and click here and read what I regard as a typical Christian Apologist "refutation" of the notion that Genesis is a reformatting of Ancient Near Eastern Mesopotamian myths.
I hope this brief article has clarified for the reader my Pre-suppositions and Biases, which underlie the articles I have created and posted on this website. It is humanly impossible not to have biases and presuppositions, but it helps to be aware of them as one writes and reads the works of others on the subject of the Bible.
"My hero is Man the Discoverer. The world we now view from the literate West -the vistas of time, the land and the seas, the heavenly bodies and our own bodies, the plants and animals, history and human societies past and prsent had to be opened up for us by countless Columbuses. As we come closer to the present they emerge into the light of history, a cast of characters as varied as human nature. Discoveries become episodes of biography, unpredictable as the new worlds the discoverers opened to us.
The obstacles to discovery -the illusions of knowledge- are also part of our story. Only against the forgotten backdrop of the received common sense and myths of their time can we begin to sense the courage, the rashness, the heroic and imaginative thrusts of the great discoverers. They had to battle against the current "facts" and dogmas of the learned. I have tried to capture those illusions -about the earth, the continents and the seas before Columbus and Balboa, Magellan and Captain Cook, about the heavens before Copernicus and Galileo and Kepler, about the human body before Paracelsus and Vesalius and Harvey, about plants and animals before Ray and Linnaeus, Darwin and Pasteur..." (p. xv. "A Personal Note to the Reader." Daniel J. Boorstin. The Discoverers. New York. Vintage Books. 1983, 1985. paperback)
I find myself identifying with Boorstin's above observation in my struggle against the "received wisdom" of the past and present "illusions of knowledge". I grew up a "bible-believer" and my initial quest was to "prove" the bible to be true via archaeology. The quest has come to its end after some 30+ years (begun in 1970), and I am a transformed person. It took years to realize that what I had unquestionably accepted to be truth, the Bible, was in fact ,"fiction and myth." Many of the articles on this website disagree most of the time with the "received wisdom" of bible-believers, as well as some findings embraced by more skeptical scholars (secular humanists). I now know there was No Garden or Eden, No Adam, No Eve, No Serpent, No Fall from Grace, No Noah, No Flood, No Ten Commandments written by God, NO Christ being resurrected, these are just reworked Sumerian and Mesopotamian myths for the most part.
In the search for the Truth, ideally no stone should be left unturned, and all proposals ought to be studied. No authority, religious or secular, should have the power to close doors into the enquiry of "What is the Truth?"
This website exhibits my personal bias against religion, which I see as a self-appointed arbitrator of what the "truth is." I find the history of the Christian Chruch to be one of ruthless repression, only it's version of what the truth is, is acceptable, all other versions or explanations are "of the Devil and his Demons". I see the religious not so much as seekers after truth, but as self-appointed "defenders of scriptural truth" (whatever that version maybe, Catholic, Protestant, Judaism, or Islam). I shrudder to think of the Christian "heretics" burned alive at the stake because they interpreted a passage of holy writ differently (seeking truth) from the religious authorities.
My interest at this website is in tracing the "pre-biblical origins" of the concepts and motifs that appear in the Old and New Testaments, back to Sumerian and Mesopotamian beliefs of the 4th-2d millenniums B.C. I understand that the Bible is not "revealed holy writ" from a God, but a long tortutured evolutionary text, consisting of repeatedly recast mythological tales, designed to take power over the credulous.
As is to be expected, the defenders of Holy Writ, believing the Bible to God's Holy Word, either DENY or DOWNPLAY any "borrowing and reformatting" of Mesopotamian concepts by the Hebrews. The most common stratagem they employ is to note that numerous details differ between Genesis 1-11 and the Mesopotamian myths. In addition the morals drawn about the relationship between god/s and man differ as well. Ergo, for Bible-believing Conservative scholars any parallels between the two cultures are dismissed as nonsense, God REALLY DID reveal to Moses what to write about how Man came to be created by God and later destroyed in a Flood.
Millard challenges Lambert's proposal as to when Mesopotamian Creation/Flood myths came to be known in the West, at Syrian Alakah and Byblos (Emphasis mine):
"Did the Hebrews borrow from Babylon? Neither an affirmative nor a negative reply to the question can be absolutely discounted in the light of present knowledge. Reconstructions of a process whereby Babylonian myths were borrowed by the Hebrews, having been transmitted by the Canaanites, and "purged" of pagan elements remain imaginary. It has yet to be shown that any Canaanite material was absorbed into Hebrew sacred literature on such a scale or in such a way. Babylonian literature itself was known in Palestine at the time of the Israelite conquest and so could have been incorporated directly. The argument that borrowing must have taken place during the latter part of the second millennium B.C. because so many Babylonian texts of that age have been found in Anatolia, Egypt, and the Levant, cannot carry much weight, being based on archaeological accident. The sites yielding the texts were either deserted or destroyed at that time, resulting in the burial of "librarie" and archives intact. Evidence does exist of not inconsiderable Babylonian scribal influence earlier (e.g., at Alakah and Byblos).
However, it has yet to be shown that there was borrowing, even indirectly. Differences between the Babylonian and Hebrew traditions can be found in factual details of the Flood narrative...and are most obvious in the ethical and religious concepts of each composition. All who suspect or suggest borrowing by the Hebrews are compelled to admit large-scale revisionism, alteration, and re-interpretaion in a fashion which cannot be substaniated for any other composition from the Ancient Near East...If there was borrowing then it can have extended only so far as the "historical" framework, and not included intention or interpretation...The two accounts [Hebrew and Mesopotamian] undoubtedly describe the same Flood, the two schemes relate the same sequence of events. If judgement is to be passed as to the priority of one tradition over the other, Genesis inevitably wins for its probability in terms of meterology, geophysics and timing alone...In that the patriarch Abraham lived in Babylonia, it could be said that the stories were borrowed from there, but not that they were borrowed from any text now known to us." (pp.127-128. A. R. Millard. "Observations on the Babylonian and Hebrew Accounts Compared." in his article "A New Babylonian "Genesis" Story."pp. 114-128. Richard S. Hess and David Toshio Tsumra. Editors. "I Studied Inscriptions from before the Flood," Ancient Near Eastern, Literary, and Linguistic Approaches to Genesis 1-11. Winona Lake, Indiana. Eisenbrauns. 1994. ISBN 0-931464-88-9)
"...I reject the idea that the biblical account gradually evolved out of the Babylonian; for the differences are far too great and similarities far too insignificant." (p.138. Alexander Heidel. The Babylonian Genesis, the Story of Creation. Chicago. The University of Chicago Press. 1947, 1951. Second edition. Reprint 1993)
Tigay on the Epic of Gilgamesh drawing from earlier unrelated compositions:
"The Gilgamesh Epic drew heavily upon Mesopotamian literary tradition. Not only did the author of the Old Babylonian version base his epic on older Sumerian tales about Gilgamesh, but he and the editors who succeeded him made extensive use of materials and literary forms originally unrelated to Gilgamesh." (p. 247. Jeffrey . Tigay. The Evolution of the Epic of Gilgamesh. Philadelphia. University of Pennsylvania. 1982)
Heidel on unrelated compositions being drawn from and reformatted:
"It has been long recognized that the Gilgamesh Epic constitutes a literary compilation of material from various originally unrelated sources, put together to form one grand, more or less harmonious whole...The composite character of our epic is thus established beyond any doubt." (p. 13. Alexander Heidel. The Gilgamesh Epic and Old Testament Parallels. Chicago. University of Chicago Press. 1946, 1949. paperback. reprinted 1963, 1995)
"The work of the Semites, however, did not consist simply in translating the Sumerian texts and combining them into one continuous story; rather, it constituted a new creation, which in the course of time, as indicated by the different versions at our disposal, was continually modified and elaborated at the hands of the various compilers and redactors, with the result that the Semitic versions which have survived to our day in most cases differ widely from the available Sumerian material." (p. 14. Alexander Heidel. The Gilgamesh Epic and Old Testament Parallels. Chicago. University of Chicago Press. 1946, 1949. paperback. reprinted 1963, 1995)
Seow on earlier, unrelated compositions being brought together and given "new meanings" _contrary to their original intents_ said observation, _for me_ explaining why Genesis possesses so many INVERSIONS of the earlier Mesopotamian myths, citing research by Tigay ( J. H. Tigay. The Evolution of the Gilgamesh Epic. Philadelphia. University of Pennsylvania. 1982. And J. H. Tigay. The Gilgamesh Epic: Empirical Models For Biblical Criticism. Phildaelphia. University of Pennsylvania. 1985) :
Seow (Emphasis mine):
"...the Gilgamesh Epic. This text is important here inasmuch as it evidences the adaptation of earlier works of various genres, some of which are employed within their NEW literary context in a manner CONTRARY to their original intent." (p. 285. C. L. Seow. "Qohelet's Autobiography." Astrid B. Beck. Editor. Fortunate The Eyes That See. [A Festshrift in honor of David Noel Freedman] Grand Rapids, Michigan. Eerdmans Publishing Company. 1995)
Kramer's observation on the Babylonian remolding of the Sumerian motifs _for me_ applies just as well to the later Hebrew "remolding" of the earlier Mesopotamian creation myths regarding man:
"To sum up: Of the various episodes comprising the "Epic of Gilgamesh," several go back to Sumerian prototypes actually involving the hero Gilgamesh. Even in those episodes which lack Sumerian counterparts, most of the individual motifs reflect Sumerian mythic and epic sources. In no case, however, did the Babylonian poets slavishly copy the Sumerian material. They so modified its content and molded its form, in accordance with their own temper and heritage, that only the bare nucleus of the Sumerian original remains recognizable. As for the plot structure of the epic as a whole -the forceful and fateful episodic drama of the restless, adventurous hero and his inevitable disillusionment- it is definitely a Babylonian, rather than Sumerian, development and achievement. In a very deep sense, therefore, the ""Epic of Gilgamesh" may be truly described as a Semitic creation." (pp. 194-195. "The First Case of Literary Borrowing." Samuel Noah Kramer. History Begins At Sumer, Twenty-seven Firsts in Man's Recorded History. Garden City, New York. Doubleday Anchor.  reprint 1959)
Lambert and Millard on ancient writer's having no qualms about rewriting earlier compositions:
"...the ancient world had no proper titles, no sense of literary rights, and no aversion to what we call plagiarism. Succeeding ages often rewrote old texts to suit new language forms and tastes." (p. 5. "Introduction." W. G. Lambert & A. R. Millard. Atra-Khasis, The Babylonian Story of the Flood. 1969 Oxford University Press. Reprint: 1999. Winona Lake, Indiana. Eisenbrauns.)
"The wide divergencies between the Old Babylonian copies illustrate how the scribes and editors could take a free hand in rewriting the text." (p. 14. Lambert & Millard)
"The Sumerian epic...comes closest to Atra-Khasis...Despite the similarity in content, the size is quite different (some 300 Sumerian as opposed to 1,245 Akkadian lines), and the wording nowhere agrees." (p. 14. Lambert & Millard)
Professor Tigay, noting that some scholars _deny_ any "borrowing" of Mesopotamian motifs for the book of Genesis because details _differ_ between the biblical and Mesopotamian accounts of the Flood, concluded that the Bible has "indeed" borrowed from Mesopotamian motifs and transformed them (Emphasis mine):
"This brief survey shows that peripheral versions of Mesopotamian literary texts may not only differ from the Mesopotamian versions in detail, but that they may abbreviate them or even modify them in accordance with their own ideology and local interests, PRECISELY AS THE BIBLE APPEARS TO HAVE DONE. If these data appear to weaken the grounds for opposing claims of literary borrowing -- and I believe that they do -- then this has some unsettling implications. For it means that an alleged relationship between a Biblical text or motif and some ancient Near Eastern counterpart CANNOT BE REFUTED SIMPLY BY POINTING TO DIFFERENCES BETWEEN THE TWO, even if they are numerous."
For a Christian "Apologist" refutal of Tigay's conclusions and methodologies please click here.
I agree with Tigay and Heidel's assessment that the Epic of Gilgamesh employs an EXTENSIVE borrowing and amalgamating of several originally unrelated strands from different compositions. Lambert noted that the Mesopotamian cosmographers forte was not the creation of new concepts from whole cloth but the combining and reinterpreting of various motifs and concepts from originally unrelated compositions. It is my understanding that Genesis 1-9 (The Creation to Flood account), follows along in the traditions of the Hebrew's Mesoptamian predecessors (Abraham being originally of Ur of the Chaldees in Lower Mesopotamia). Millard noted that for those arguing that Genesis is an EXTENSIVE borrowing and reformatting of many different myths must admit a major transformation exists "UNHEARD OF" in earlier ANE history. The observations by Tigay and Heidel which note the bringing together of motifs from different unrelated compositions and harmonizing them into one grand epic, and Seow's important observation of CONTRARY meanings being ascribed to them in their NEW compositional setting, would seem to belie the notion that the Hebrews were doing anything "new and unheard of" in recasting and bringing together several previously unrelated motifs from a variety different compositions and giving them meanings CONTRARY to their original intents (said compositions having been identified by myself as Adapa and the South Wind; the Epic of Gilgamesh; Atar-hasis; Inanna and Utu; Enki and Ninhursag in Dilmun; the Enuma Elish; etc.). In other words, I understand the Epic of Gilgamesh, long regarded one of the earliest, longest and "most polished"compositions of the Ancient Near East, embodies the very same methodologies -the EXTENSIVE harmonizing of disparate motifs from unrelated works- as appear in Genesis 1-9.
I find myself in full agreement with the insights of Professor Lambert:
"The authors of ancient cosmologies were essentially compilers. Their originality was expressed in new combinations of old themes, and in new twists to old ideas. Sheer invention was not part of their craft." (p. 107, Wilfred G. Lambert, "A New Look at the Babylonian Background of Genesis,: , in Richard S. Hess and David T. Tsumura. Editors. I Studied Inscriptions From Before the Flood, Winona Lake, Indiana. Eisenbrauns. 1994)
Professor Wenham, (Senior Lecturer in Religious Studies at the College of St. Paul and St. Mary in Cheltenham, England) has done a commendable presentation, in my opinion, on explaining what Genesis is _really all about_, in its transformation and reinterpretation of the Ancient Mesopotamian concepts regarding the relationship between man and god :
Wenham (Emphasis mine):
"Though Genesis shares many of the theological presuppositions of the ancient world, most of the stories found in these chapters are best read as presenting an alternative world-view to those generally accepted in the Ancient Near East. Genesis 1-11 is a tract for the times challenging ancient assumptions about the nature of God, the world and mankind. (p. xlv) An understanding of ancient oriental mythology is essential if we are to appreciate the points Genesis 1-11 was making then (p. xlvi)...It is my conviction that many of our problems are caused by misunderstanding the original intentions of Genesis...many of the individual episodes in Genesis 1-11 may be seen to have a distinctly polemical thrust in their own right, particularly against the religious ideas associated most closely with Mesopotamia (p. xlviii)...Viewed with respect to its negatives, Genesis 1:1-2-3 is a polemic against the mythico-religious concepts of the ancient orient...the seventh day is not a day of ill omen as in Mesopotamia, but a day of blessing and sanctity on which normal work is laid aside. In contradocting the usual ideas of its times, Genesis 1 is also setting out a positive alternative (p. 37)...We have noted that the overall structure of the material in Genesis 1-11 finds its closest parallels in the Sumerian flood story and the Sumerian king list and in the Atrahasis Epic, all dated to 1600 BC or earlier (p. xliv)...This is not to say that the writer of Genesis had ever heard or read the Gilgamesh Epic: these traditions were part of the intellectual furniture of that time in the Near East, just as most people today have some idea of Darwin's Origin of the Species, though they have never read it." (p. xlviii. Gordon J. Wenham. Word Biblical Commentary, Genesis 1-15. Waco, Texas. Word Incorporated. 1987)
"The ancient oriental background to Genesis 1-11 shows it to be concerned with rather different issues from those that tend to preoccupy modern readers. It is affirming the unity of God in the face of polytheism, his justice rather than his caprice, his power as opposed to his impotence, his concern for mankind rather than his exploitation. And whereas Mesopotamia clung to the wisdom of the primeval man, Genesis records his sinful disobedience. Because as Christians we tend to assume these points in our theology, we often fail to recognize the striking originality of the message of Genesis 1-11..." (p. 1. Wenham)
"In all these cases there is no evidence of simple borrowing by the Hebrew writer. It would be better to suppose that he has borrowed various familiar mythological motifs, transformed them, and integrated them into a fresh and original story of his own. Whereas Adapa heeded the word of the god Ea and did not eat the forbidden fruit, Adam and Eve rejected the Lord's command and followed the serpent." (p. 53. Wenham)
"If it is correct to view Genesis 1-11 as _AN INSPIRED RETELLING_ of ancient oriental traditions about the origins of the world with a view to presenting the nature of God as one, omnipotent, omniscient, and good, as opposed to the fallible, capricious, weak deities who populate the rest of the ancient world; if further it is concerned to show that humanity is central in the divine plan, not an afterthought; if finally it wants to show that man's plight is the product of his disobedience and indeed is bound to worsen without divine intervention, Genesis 1-11 is setting out a picture of the world that is at odds both with the polytheistic optimism of ancient Mesopotamia and the humanistic secularism and the modern world.
Genesis is thus a fundamental challenge to the ideologies of civilized men and women, past and present, who like to suppose their own efforts will ultimately suffice to save them. Genesis 1-11 declares that mankind is without hope if individuals are without God." (p. liii. Wenham)
I have argued, along with others, that the Hebrews have apparently transformed the Mesopotamian myths in Genesis, but how does one account for this from a biblical point of view? Where's the "LINK"? Perhaps the "MISSING LINK" is _Ur of the Chaldees_, where lived Terah and his son Abraham before their departure to Haran in northern Syria? Excavations at Ur (Tell el Muqayyar, Mugheir, south of Babylon) have uncovered tablets from all periods of the city's long history, and some preserve the myths of this region dating back to Sumerian times. Leick noted that at times Syrian (Amorite) influence is detectable in some of these myths, they are not "purely" Sumerian, they have been reworked and augmented. Perhaps Terah and Abraham's ancestors were Syrians who had earlier settled at Ur? Did a "Syrian" Terah and Abraham later come "to make a break" with the local myths and develop their own interpretation of the relationship between God and Man, via inversions of the local myths? Did they leave Ur because the local populace rejected their new insights or "revelations" and return to their ancestral homeland of Haran, to promulgate their new vision to a less hostile audience?
Professor Kramer on Abraham of Ur being Genesis' "missing link":
"To be sure, even the earliest parts of the Bible, it is generally agreed, were not written down in their present form much earlier than 1000 B.C., whereas most of the Sumerian literary documents were composed about 2000 B.C. or not long afterward. There is, therefore no question of any contemporary borrowing from the Sumerian literary sources. Sumerian influence penetrated the Bible through the Canaanite, Hurrian, Hittite, and Akkadian literatures -particularly through the latter, since, as is well known, the Akkadian language was used all over Palestine and its environs in the second millennium BC as the common language of practically the entire literary world. Akkadian literary works must therefore have been well known to Palestinian men of letters, including the Hebrews, and not a few of these Akkadian literary works can be traced back to Sumerian protoypes, remodeled and transformed over the centuries.
However, there is another possible source of Sumerian influence on the Bible, which is far more direct and immediate than that just described. In fact, it may well go back to Father Abraham himself. Most scholars agree that the Abraham saga as told in the Bible contains much that is legendary and fanciful, it does have an important kernel of truth, including Abraham's birth in Ur of the Chaldees, perhaps about 1700 B.C., and his early life there with his family. Now Ur was one of the most important cities of ancient Sumer; in fact, it was the capital of Sumer at three different periods in its history. It had an impressive edubba; and in the joint British-American excavations conducted there between the years 1922 and 1934, quite a number of Sumerian literary documents have been found. Abraham and his forefathers may well have had some acquaintence with Sumeriabn literary products that had been copied and created in their home town academy. And it is by no means impossible that he and the members of his family brought some of this Sumerian lore and learning with them to Palestine, where they gradually became part of the traditions and sources utilized by the Hebrew men of letters in composing and redacting the books of the Bible." (p. 292. "The Legacy of Sumer." Samuel Noah Kramer.
The Sumerians, Their History, Culture, and Character. Chicago. The University of Chicago Press.  reprint 1972. ISBN 0-226-45237-9. paperback)
Extra-biblical evidence suggests a Jewish understanding from as early as the Hasmonean period (late 2nd century B.C.), that the Israelite forefathers were indeed originally of Babylonia, and only later of Haran of Mesopotamia and that because they had departed from the forms of worship embraced by their ancestors, they were apparently driven away as _heretics_ to Haran and later to Canaan. If I am right in suppossing that the INVERSIONS, transformations and reformatting of the Mesopotamian myths are Terah and Abraham's doing, one can see why they would be driven out of Ur of the Chaldees by the local inhabitants who would _object_ to their religious myths being NULLIFIED by the "revelations" of these two men.
Here is the account from Judith (believed by some scholars to date from the late 2nd century B.C.):
"Then Achior, the leader of all the Ammonites, said to him, "Let my lord now hear a word from the mouth of your servant, and I will tell you the truth about this people that dwells in the nearby mountain district. No falsehood shall come from your servant's mouth. This people is descended from the Chaldeans.At one time they lived in Mesopotamia, because they would not follow the the gods of their fathers who were in Chaldea. For they had left the ways of their ancestors, and they worshipped the God of Heaven, the God they had come to know; hence they drove them out from the presence of their gods; and they fled to Mesopotamia, and lived there a long time. Then their God commanded them to leave the place were they were living and go to the land of Canaan. There they settled, and prospered..." (Herbert G. May & Bruce M. Metzger. Editors. The New Oxford Annotated Bible with the Apocrypha. [Revised Standard Version]. New York. Oxford University Press. 1977)
Kramer's explanation, below, of how the ancient Sumerians sought to explain the creation of the world and man, _for me_ applies just as well to Genesis' fanciful explanation of the creation of the earth and man:
"...modern thinking man is usually prepared to admit the relative character of his conclusions and is skeptical of all absolute answers. Not so the Sumerian thinker; he was convinced that his thoughts on the matter were absolutely correct and that he knew exactly how the universe was created and operated." (p. 82. "Man's First Cosmogony and Cosmology." Samuel Noah Kramer. History Begins At Sumer: Twenty-seven "Firsts" in Man's Recorded History. Garden City, New York. Doubleday Anchor Books. 1959 reprint of 1956 History Begins at Sumer by The Falcon's Wing Press)
"The mythographers were scribes and poets whose main concern was the glorification and exhaltation of the gods and their deeds...The aim of the myth-makers was to compose a narrative poem that would explain one or another of these notions and practices in a manner that would be appealing, insipring, and entertaining. They were not concerned with proofs and arguments directed to the intellect. Their first interest was in telling a story that would appeal to the emotions. Their main literary tools, therefore, were not logic and reason, but imagination and fantasy. In telling their story, these poets did not hesitate to invent motives and incidents patterned on human action which could not possibly have any basis in reasonable and speculative thought. Nor did they hesitate to adopt legendary and folkloristic motifs that had nothing to do with rational cosmological inquiry and inference...The mature and reflective Sumerian thinker had the mental capacity of thinking logically and coherently on any problems, including those concerned with the origin and operation of the universe. His stumbling block was the lack of scientific data at his disposal. Furthermore, he lacked such fundamental intellectual tools as definition and generalization, and had practically no insight into the the processes of growth and development, since the principle of evolution, which seems so obvious now, was entirely unknown to him." (pp. 80-81. "Man's first Cosmogony and Cosmology." Samuel Noah Kramer. History Begins At Sumer: Twenty-seven "Firsts" in Man's Recorded History. Garden City, New York. Doubleday Anchor Books. 1959 reprint of 1956 History Begins at Sumer by The Falcon's Wing Press)
Foster on the Mesopotamian audience:
"To a Mesopotamian audience, certain themes of the poem [The Epic of Gilgamesh] would have been familiar from other popular literary works. The portrayal of human mortality as a consequence of divine selfishness, for example, was well known to them. They also recognized a hero as a man striving towards greater accomplishments than those of ordinary people, in spite of the limitations imposed by chance and destiny. The Mesopotamians preferred literary works set in ancient times, involving kings and gods, narrating events largely outside of everyday experience. Yet the divine and human heroes often display imperfections and personal limitations, as if the remoteness of time and empirical background were no obstacles to projecting inglorious human weakness onto long-ago heroes. The theme of the partiality of divine justice was familiar to Babylonian readers as well: they would not have been surprised at the unfair condemnation of Enkidu nor at the intervention of the sun god, Shamash, to the crucial advantage of the heroes...Mesopotamians expected their literature to stress the importance of knowledge. The significance of Gilgamesh's story lay not so much in the deeds themselves as in the lesson his experience offered to future generations. The Mesopotamians believed that the highest knowledge came to sages of the remote past directly from the gods or through extraordinary events not likely to recur. For their own times, they thought that the highest knowledge came from the study of written works of the past." (pp. xx-xxi. "Introduction." Benjamin R. Foster. The Epic of Gilgamesh. [Norton Critical Edition]. New York. W. W. Norton & Company. 2001. ISBN 0-393-97516-9 paperback)
Foster's observation that Divine and Human Heroes being portrayed with human weaknesses, would appear to belie that oft heard claim by some Bible Fundamentalists, that the Bible really is the word of God because it shows heroes like David and Solomon with human character flaws. These flaws appear to be following in the Mesopotamian literary tradition. A number of scholars have noted God's "character flaws," his anger, vacillation, vindictiveness, lying, contradicting himself, persecuting the faithful as well as the sinner- all in harmony with the earlier Mesopotamian notions of the Gods possessing the same human weaknesses!
Christianity, a Religion built upon Flawed Methodologies?
Two hundred years ago Thomas Paine (1737- 1809 ) in his work titled The Age of Reason noted that the very basis upon which Christainity was erected, was that of "flawed methodologies," the taking of alleged Old Testament prophecies and claiming that they referred to Christ who was born some 700 to 500 years after they had been uttered by the Hebrew prophets.
He noted that for the most part these "spurious" prophecies had been created by Christians by resorting to the "lifting" of verses or statements _out of their orginal contexts_ and then claiming they "prefigured" the birth of Christ and his mission. As any scholar worth his salt knows, the lifting of a statement from its original historical context allows it to be misinterpreted, CONTEXT IS ALL IMPORTANT in understanding properly a verse or statement. When Paine restored the "lifted" or "excised" statement to its historical context, the verses or paragraphs preceeding and following it, he realized that it had nothing to do at all in "prefiguring" Christ and his mission. The verse or statement was dealing with a current event or an event only days, months or a few years away at most, which would soon transpire.
Paine also noted another "flawed" Christian methodology, the claim that the Prophets had foretold events hundreds of years into the future, which related to Christ. He ably demonstrated that the prophecies of the Old Testament were intended ONLY for the immediate audience and to be fulfilled within a short space of time, a few days, months or years, NOT hundreds of years or thousands of years into the future as claimed by Christian exegeis. My own research supports him. God in the Bible told His people _how to detect_ a false prophet. If that prophet's prophecy comes true, God has accomplished it . If it does NOT come to pass, its a false prophet. Quite clearly this warning, allegedly from God, envisioned the prophecy's fulfillment to occur _within the lifetime of the audience_ and NOT hundreds or thousands of years after their death, for how could they know if a prophet was false or not if God intended to fulfill it centuries or millennia AFTER their deaths?
Deut 18:20-22, RSV,
"But the prophet who presumes to speak a word in my name which I have not
commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that same
prophet shall die. And if you say in your heart, 'How may we know the word
which the Lord has not spoken ?'- when a prophet speaks in the name of the
Lord, if the word does not come to pass or come true, that is a word which
the Lord has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously, you need
not be afraid of him."
I concluded that God would not "CON" his own people telling them NOT to believe UNTIL a sign appeared, the prophecy's fulfilment. Christian exegeis of course, denies that prophecies are failed, they are merely intended to be fulfilled by God at some future date, hundreds or thousands of year into the future, in our own days. This Christian "rationalization" however _makes a mockery of_ God's warning to his people that they are NOT to believe a prophet UNTIL the sign is accomplished, the fulfillment of the prophecy.
Somewhat surprising is the Hebrew Bible's _admission_ that at times, God sends false prophecies to prophets in order to entrap and destroy men. That is to say, apparently, on occasion, God is portrayed as _the author of false prophecies_, rather than Satan taking all the blame!
1 Kings 22:19-23 RSV
And Micaiah said, "Therefore hear the word of the Lord: I saw the Lord sitting on his throne, and all the host of heaven standing beside him on his right and on his left; and the Lord said, 'Who will entice Ahab, that he may go up and fall at Ramoth-gilead?' And one said one thing, and another said another. Then a spirit came forward and stood before the Lord saying, 'I will entice him.' And the Lord said to him, 'By what means?' And he said, 'I will go forth, and will be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets.' And he said, 'You are to entice him, and you shall succeed; go forth and do so.' Now therefore, behold, THE LORD HAS PUT A LYING SPIRIT IN THE MOUTH OF ALL THESE YOUR PROPHETS; the Lord has spoken evil concerning you."
Judaism, a Religion Built on Flawed Methodologies?
As noted above, God had allegedly told his people in the Hebrew Bible, how to detect a false prophet. They were told NOT TO BELIEVE UNTIL the sign had been accomplished, that is to say, the prophecy had been fulfilled. From my research I was able to establish that many if not most of the prophecies in the Hebrew Bible were failed prophecies, they were not fulfilled in the days of the audience hearing them nor have they been fufilled in our own day, the 21st century. I studied Jewish and Christian "apologetics" which claimed certain prophecies had been fulfilled, but when I stuided the prophecies for my self I came to realize that the "fine details" embedded within them laying out "how" God would accomplish the prophecy, that the event did not happen at all _in the manner_ predicted.
I asked myself, how could people believe in a God that does NOT keep his word, and who refuses to VINDICATE his prophets down to the last jot and tittle of the prophecy? Why would he lie to his people, telling them NOT TO BELIEVE _until_ the prophecy was fulfiled, while all the time He "secretly" intended to fulfill it hundreds or thousands of years _after_ their deaths? I found myself having to reject the Bible as God's holy word. His prophets, Moses, Isaiah, Jeremiah, and others had ALL issued false prophecies, that were NEVER fulfilled.
I wondered to myself how is it that millions of people in Judaism and Christianity have been able to believe that the Bible is "really God's word" when He has NOT vindicated His prophet's prophecies? It finally "dawned on me," what was going on- "the keepers of the faith," Rabbis and Christian priests, were "turning a blind eye" to the failed prophecies and _excusing them_ as intended for centuries or millennia into the future. The problem however, was that this "rationalization" MOCKED God's warning to His people, that they were NOT to beleive a prophet UNTIL the prophecy was accomplished. So, Judaism and Christianity BOTH EMPLOY FLAWED METHODOLOGIES in order to perpetuate themselves. Their congregations too turn a "blind eye" to the failed prophecies, accepting the "rationalization" that God at some future date will fulfill the unfulfilled prophecies.
Please click on the following articles on Failed Prophecies and Flawed Methodologies employed by both Judaism and Christianity to perpetuate themselves :
I was once naive enough to think that my articles exposing the failed prophecies of the Bible as revealing that the prophets, Moses, Isaiah, Jeremiah, etc., were ALL FALSE PROPHETS would CONVINCE peope (Christians and Jews) of the ERROR or their ways, that ALL of the Bible's prophets were False Prophets, ergo the Bible could not be God's holy word. But _NOW_ I realize that people are NOT going to give up "their cherished beliefs," for they find "comfort" in them, a "fellowship", a "networking" of friends and family, and MOST do NOT see ANY comfort in disavowing and exiting a religious establishment leaving all these cherished contacts behind "in a search for _The Truth_".
Cf. the below article on one religious group's ability to recover _repeatedly_ from a long history of failed prophecies, they having"rationalized away" the failed prophecies, grew even stronger, and continued believing.
Please click here for Farrell Till's Prophecies: Imaginary and Unfulfilled (49 printed pages), which I HIGHLY reccomend be "printed" and studied carefully.
Please click here for an excellent article titled Pseudoarchaeolgy, explaining how archaeology is abused and misused to promote certain ideologies (individual, group, national).
For an interesting analysis of Conservative vs. Liberal interpretation of the Biblical texts and the METHODOLOGIES involved, from a "believer's point of view," please click here. The article deals with the Seventh Day Adventist Church and the Liberal vs. Conservative forces within it and their "methodologies."
Thomas Paine really "hit the nail on the head" in his perceptive observation that _all_ religions are based on _alleged_ "revelations" from a god to a man.
He points out the "danger" in accepting anyone's word that they have had a "revelation" from God. In order to accept the Old and New Testaments as true, the believer must first accept as true the alleged revelations from God to Moses, Abraham, the Patriarchs, Prophets, and Apostles.
Paine rightly notes that the big problem in accepting a "revelation claim" is that it is pretty much unverifiable. One does not know if the person claiming a revelation from God is a con artist, fraud, idiot, or suffering from delusions, or self-deceived. What one dreams and claims to be a revelation are just as untrustworthy for all the above reasons.
A French savant of Paine's era wittingly noted that "The first rogue claimed God had spoken to him, and the first fool believed him," and that this concept was the foundation of all religions.
Freeman on "revelations":
"...anyone can claim to have received a revelation from God, and there is virtually no way of assessing what is a valid or invalid revelation. In practice, revelation does not prove susceptible to reason because there is no way through which it can be assessed by reasoning minds." (p. 335. Charles Freeman. The Closing of the Western Mind, the Rise of Faith and the Fall of Reason. New York. Alfred A. Knopf. 2002, 2004. ISBN 1-4000-4085-X)
As noted earlier, above, the Old Testament does acknowledge the existence of false prophets and gives some good advice on how to detect them. Wait for a sign, the prophecy's fulfillment. If it is accomplished God did it. However, if that prophet then teaches one NOT to observe God's commandments and statutes, he is not to be followed, God is testing his people to see if they will really be true to him. For he says, "If you love me you will obey my commandments and statues." The Jews _had no other choice but to reject Christianity_ for it teaches that God's commandments and statutes (as well as holy days, feasts, dietary laws, etc.) are not to be obeyed, as Christ's death ended the power of the Torah (Law) over man.
I have also noted the failure of many of the prophecies made by Moses, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Christ, which were NOT fulfilled in the lifetime of the hearing audience or even to this day.
"Revelation then, so far as the term has relation between God and man, can only be applied to something which God reveals of his will to man. But though the power of the Almighty to make such a communication is necessarily admited, because to that power all things are possible, yet the thing so revealed, (if any thing ever was revealed, and which, by the bye, it is impossible to prove) is revelation to the person only to whom it is made. His account of it to another is not revelation; and whoever puts faith in that account, puts it in the man from whom the account comes; and that man may have been deceived, or may have dreamed it, or he may be an impostor and may lie. There is no possible criterion whereby to judge of the truth of what he tells; for even the morality of it would be no proof of revelation. In all such cases, the proper answer would be, "When it is revealed to me, I will believe it to be revelation, but it is not and cannot be incumbent upon me to believe it to be revelation before; neither is it proper that I should take the word of man as the word of God, and put man in the place of God."
This is the manner in which I have spoken of revelation in the former part of the Age of Reason; and which, whilst it reverentially admits revelation as a possible thing, because, (as before said) to the Almighty all things are possible, it prevents the imposition of one man upon another, and precludes the wicked use of pretended revelation.
But though, speaking for myself, I thus admit the possibility of revelation, I totally disbelieve that the Almighty ever did communicate any thing to man by any mode of speech in any language, or by any kind of vision or appearance, or by any means which our senses are capable of receiving; otherwise than by the universal display of himself in the works of the creation, and by that repugnance we feel in ourselves to bad actions, and disposition to good ones." (p. 820. Thomas Paine. "The Age of Reason, Part Two." Thomas Paine, Collected Writings: Common Sense, The Crisis and Other Pamphlets, Articles and Letters; Rights of Man; The Age of Reason. New York. Literary Classics of the United States, Inc. 1995. ISBN 1-883011-03-5)
I find myself in complete agreement with Paine!
Apparently Judaism, Christianity and Islam are constructed upon two very important "pillars", 1) a belief in "revelation", as noted above by Paine, and 2) "answered prayer." Ask _any_ Christian, Jew, or Moslem how they can be so sure their's is the _one_ "true faith" and they will invariably respond that their God has answered their prayers. The Problem? Because _all_ religions invoke "answered prayer" as confirming for the faithful the "correctness" of their religion, it is really NOT useful in determing the _one_ "true" faith (if such exists).
Does the Bible offer a guide to determining the _one_ "true" faith? Yes, it does. The claim is advanced by the Hebrew Bible that _only_ Yahweh's prophets have their prophecies fulfilled, all other faiths are under the power of "false prophets" whose prognostications are unfulfilled. So, the Bible invokes "fulfilled prophecy" as a "sign" from God to lead the open and inquiring mind to the _one_ "true" God. However, as I have noted above, my investigations into the Bible's prophets and their prophecies revealed that many if not all were failed prophecies, not fulfilled in the lifetimes of the audience hearing the prognostication for the future. So, by the Bible's _own_ "yardstick" of determining which faith is the _one_ "true" faith, -fulfilled prophecy- the Bible's prophets failed the test.
Below, Yahweh _himself_ claims that only he can predict correctly the future:
Isaiah 42:9 RSV
"Behold, the former things have come to pass, and the new things I now declare; before they spring forth I tell you of them."
Isaiah 44:6-8 RSV
"Thus says the Lord, the King of Israel and his Redeemer, the Lord of hosts: "I am the first and the last; besides me there is no other god. Who is like me? Let him proclaim it, let him declare and set it forth before me. Who has announced from of old the things to come? Let them tell us what is yet to be. Fear not, nor be afraid; have I not told you from of old and declared it? And you are my witnesses! Is there a God besides me? There is no Rock; I know not any."
Isaiah 46:21 RSV
"Assemble yourselves and come, draw near together, you survivors of the nations! They have no knowledge who carry about their wooden idols, and keep on praying to a god that cannot save. Declare and present your case; let them take counsel together! Who told this long ago? Who declared it of old? Was it not I, the Lord?"
As I have noted above, Yahweh's boast has NEVER been fulfilled. He claimed via Isaiah his prophet that he would restore _all_ of the "remnant" of Jacob's descendants to their lands (Isa 65:9-10) via Cyrus (Isa. 44:24-28; 45:1-17) but the event did NOT occur as only "part" of Jacob returned not "all" of Jacob. God also boasted that Israel would never again fall to its enemies or be ravaged by them (Isa 65:19), yet it fell to the ravages of the Hellenistic Greeks as well as the Romans.
The Rabbinical "excuse" for God's failed prophecy is that Israel or Jacob NEVER lived up to their part of the bargin, that is to say _the whole nation_ NEVER repented. ONLY when _ALL_ of Jacob repents will the prophecies will be fulfilled (cf. De 30:1-10). This is, however, a FLAWED METHODOLOGY. Why? Although Moses predicted that repentence in Exile must preceed restoration (De 30:1-3) the prophet Ezekiel speaking through the Holy Spirit declared that although God would set free _all_ of his people from the Exile, he would NOT allow the "rebels" among them to return and settle in the promised land. Those whom He did allow to re-enter would be given His Holy Spirit so that they would never sin against Him ever again (Ez 20:33-34, 38). Thus, according to Ezekiel, God never intended to restore "ALL" of Israel/Jacob to its lands, only those who were repentant. Ezekiel stated that Judah's punishment (Exile) would be 40 years (Ez 4:6). He mentions the fall of Jerusalem in the course of his 12th year in Exile (Ez 33:21), if the date of 587 BCE is accepted for the city's _second fall_ to Nebuchadrezzar as suggested by some scholars, then the Exile began 12 years earlier, ca. 599 B.C. A 40 year punishment of Judah (Ez 4:6) suggests a restoration from Exile ca. 559 B.C.
Ezekiel 20:33-34, 38 RSV
"As I live, says the Lord God, surely with a mighty hand and outstretched arm, and with wrath poured out, I will be king over you. I will bring you out from the peoples and gather you out of the countries where you are scattered, with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, and with wrath poured out...I WILL PURGE OUT THE REBELS FROM AMONG YOU, and those who transgress against me; I will bring them out of the land where they sojourn, BUT THEY SHALL NOT ENTER THE LAND OF ISRAEL. Then you will know that I am the Lord."
Contra Ezekiel, the prophet Jeremiah had _set a time-table for Israel's full and complete restoration_ from the Babylonian Captivity upon the elapse of 70 years:
Jeremiah 29:10, RSV,
For thus says the Lord: WHEN SEVENTY YEARS ARE COMPLETED for Babylon, I will visit you, and _I will fulfil to you my promise and bring you back to this place_. For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for welfare and a hope. Then you will call me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me; when you seek me with all your heart, I will be found by you, and I will restore your fortunes _and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you_, says the Lord, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile."
All this is to say that the current Jewish notion that God will "someday in the future" fufill his promise to settle _all_ of Israel in its land (Deuteronomy 30:1-10) is NULLIFIED by Jeremiah's claim this event would occur upon the completion an exile of 70 years. By turning a selective "blind-eye" to Jeremiah's time-restraints for a restoration of _all_ of Israel to its land, Judaism has been guilty of inspiring false hopes in its peoples of a future restoration of _all_ Israel from all the corners of the world.
Isaiah had announced that Cyrus was to be God's agent to accomplish God's will, the restoration of his people to their land and the rebuilding of the temple in Jerusalem as well as the city's walls being restored (Isa. 44:26-28; 45:1-17). The anonymous "Chronicler" understood that Cyrus' decree, allowing Jews to return to Judah and rebuild the temple, was the fulfillment of Jeremiah's prophecy (2 Chronicles 36:20-23; & Ezra 1:1). Yet, events did not unfold as predicted. Cyrus' immediate succesors did NOT allow the temple's restoration or the rebuilding of Jerusalem's walls, fearing rebellion. Neither did God restore "all" of Israel to its lands. We know this from the accounts of Ezra and Nehemiah. The Holy Spirit had erred in inspiring these men to announce _all_ of Israel's imminent restoration under Cyrus.
However, a contradicting Ezekiel said Judah would be restored from the Captivity in 40 years (Ez 29:13). God announced via Isaiah that because he was a merciful and forgiving God, he would "pardon" his people's trespass against him! He would put his holy spirit in them guaranteeing they would never again trespass against him. God did not keep his promise. He did not give them his Holy Spirit upon restoring his people to their land under Cyrus. They were oppressed by the Selucid Greeks and Ptolemies as well as the Romans who drove them from their land for rebellions in 70 and 135 A.D. Yet God had assured his people with the restoration they would no longer be oppressed, because HIS Holy Spirit would be poured out on the nation making it posible for them to keep his Torah and never again be expelled from their "promised" land.
One of the _most glaring_ of the many failed prophecies appearing in the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament), is Yahweh's declaration that upon the restoration of his people from the Babylonian Exile, that he will NOT PERMIT the rebels among his people to return to the "promised land"! He will liberate them from the Babylonian Captivity, but they will NOT be permitted "a return" to their ancestral lands.
As we learn from the books of Ezra and Nehemiah, this declaration from Yahweh was NOT realized, as the people who did return and settle in Judah continued violating the Torah (Law) by marrying foreign women and violating the Sabbath. Had Yahweh prevented such "rebels" from re-entering the land these Torah-violating practices would never have arisen. That is to say, the alleged Holy Sprit that inspired Ezekiel to utter these words was quite wrong, rebels to the Torah DID RETURN TO THE LAND and subvert Torah authority. God was apparently _impotent_ in keeping such rascals out. And, had God poured out His Holy Spirit on those whom He allowed to return, as He had promised via Ezekiel, the re-admitted "non-rebels" would NOT have engaged in anti-Torah behaviors. Ezekiel was quite "specific" about WHEN God would pour out His Holy Spirit on his people, and cleanse them of their inquities, it would occur upon the return to the land and the rebuilding of the ruined cities. It is an established fact that under Cyrus, the Jews were allowed to return to their lands and they did rebuild the desolated places. Yet Yahweh failed to keep his oath, he allowed rebels to return to the land and continue defying Torah by violating the Sabbath and marrying foreign wives.
Ezekiel 20:33-34, 38 RSV
"As I live, says the Lord God, surely with a mighty hand and outstretched arm, and with wrath poured out, I will be king over you. I will bring you out from the peoples and gather you out of the countries where you are scattered, with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, and with wrath poured out...I WILL PURGE OUT THE REBELS FROM AMONG YOU, and those who transgress against me; I will bring them out of the land where they sojourn, BUT THEY SHALL NOT ENTER THE LAND OF ISRAEL. Then you will know that I am the Lord."
Ezekiel 36:24-28, 33-36 RSV
For I will take you from the nations, and gather you from all the countries, and bring you back to your own land. And I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleanesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will take out of your flesh the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. AND I WILL PUT MY SPIRIT WITHIN YOU, AND CAUSE YOU TO WALK IN MY STATUTES AND BE CAREFUL TO OBSERVE MY ORDINANCES. You shall dwell in the land which I gave your fathers; and you shall be my people, and I will be your God. And I will deliver you from all your uncleanesses...Thus says the Lord God: ON THE DAY I CLEANSE YOU FROM ALL YOUR INQUITIES, I WILL CAUSE THE CITIES TO BE INHABITATED AND THE WASTE PLACES TO BE REBUILT. And the land that was desolate shall be tilled...Then the nations that are left round about you shall know that I, the Lord, have rebuilt the ruined places, and replanted that which was desolate; I the Lord, have spoken, and I will do it."
Judaism, by turning a "blind-eye" to the timetable (the return from the Babylonian Captivity being the event) set by the prophets, Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel, regarding "just when" Yahweh would accomplish His promises as noted by Moses in Dueteronomy 30:1-10, a restoration of the nation to its lands and His keeping out rebels, and pouring out His Holy Spirit on the remnant allowed to return by Him, has kept alive for centuries the failed promise of ALL Israel one day in the future being gathered from from all over the world to dwell in its "promised land." Judaism has also empoyed another "flawed methodology", the ignoring of God's alleged statement that they are NOT TO BELIEVE UNTIL THE PROPHECY IS FULFILLED. For over 2000 years the prophecies of the prophets regarding Israel's restoration have remained unfulfilled, yet the Rabbis encourage their people to believe in the prophets CONTRARY to God's warning that the only way to know if a prophecy is false is that it is not fulfilled in the lifetime of the audience hearing it.
Is there a "way out" for Bible-believers (Jews and Christians) regarding the failed prophecies? Perhaps. They could argue that God can change His mind at any time and He is not answerable to anyone for His decision NOT to follow the timetable of a restoration from the Babylonian Exile of 40 years (Ez 4:6) or of 70 years (Jer 29:10). The problem? If we allow this as "an excuse," then what point is there in studying Old and New Testament prophecies as "proofs" God really exists? They are meaningless if God can "change His mind" and decide NOT to implement the prophecies _in the lifetimes of the audiences hearing them_, thus NULLIFYING His advice via the Holy Spirit to His people that the ONLY way to know if a prophet is false or not, is to NOT BELIEVE until the prophecy is fulfilled (De 18:20-22).
Callahan's recently released book titled Secret Origins of the Bible (2002) notes in its concluding chapter that the so-called "secrets" are really not secrets at all. He explains (emphasis mine):
"Anyone reading this book who has even an amateur background in comparitive mythology might well look at the title and ask, "So where are the secrets ?" In fact, what I have revealed is for the most part known not only by Bible scholars but by many well-read lay persons as well. Yet many intelligent and otherwise well informed readers will find much of the material new and quite startling. IN ALL PROBABILITY THE MAJORITY OF THE POPULATION IS PROFOUNDLY IGNORANT OF THE _MYTHIC ORIGINS_ OF MUCH OF THE BIBLICAL MATERIAL. And therein lies the problem. Much of what is known is not communicated. I doubt this is intentional. Yet, just as in science, so it is with the Bible: increasingly our culture divides between the few who know and the many who do not." (p.248. "Dark Secrets in the Light of Day." Tim Callahan. Secret Origins of the Bible. Altadena, California. Millennium Press. 2002. ISBN 0-9655047-8-6 paperback)
Shermer on Callahan's book:
"There is a vast disconnect between the public's belief that the Bible is a divinely-produced original work of religious literature, and the scholar's knowledge that all of the major stories in the Bible have historical antecedents and can be traced to very non-divinely produced works by other cultures in earlier times. The Bible may contain 'the greatest story ever told,' but as Tim Callahan so brilliantly reveals the greatest secret of all is that the story is not original." (Michael Shermer [back cover endorsement of Callahan's book])
For my part, I think Callahan and Shermer are too "generous" in their observations. My experience has been that the general public DOES NOT WANT TO KNOW, or be told their religious beliefs are based on "reworked" Mesopotamian creation myths. Shermer and Callahan also fail to seriously address the "refutations" assembled by "defenders of the faith," Christian, Jewish and Moslem, who come up with _counter arguments_, explaining why those who think that Mesopotamian myths are being reworked, are in error.
"Ideally," one ought to suspend judgement and investigate for oneself the pros and cons and then decide which has the better argument, faith or reason. The "reality" however, is that the vast majority of people simply don't have the time or energy to explore all the arguments, pro and con on whether or not Mesopotamian myths underlie their religion's teachings of man's relationship to God. They will, _understandably_, "tend to side" with arguments advanced by the defenders' of their beliefs, rather than the detractors. They certainly will NOT be encouraged by their Rabbis, Pastors, or Mullahs to "think for themsleves" and investigate the claims of the detractors of their faith. These detractors are often characterized as being "the enemy," the infidel (meaning: "non-believer"), who "dwell in error" and who will lead the faithful "into error" too. As a result, in my humble opinion, I doubt "the many" will leave the comfort of their faith and dare to explore for themselves who really has "the correct understanding of what the truth is."
Callahan made a very perceptive comment about the myths regarding man's creation and his relationship with the gods; he noted that in these myths man sought an explanation for _why_ "the world is what it is." Why death, disease, strife, murder, lying, jealousy, lust, covetness, greed, and selfishness? For the Mesopotamians the answer was that man "was the way he is" because he was made in the image of the gods who themselves possess ALL these unflattering qualities. The created can not be any better than his creator. Of course, from a modern Anthropological point of view (which I embrace), the gods are "projections" of man's fears, loves, hates and weaknesses on to imaginary invisible beings. Yahweh-Elohim possesses many of the traits of humans, GOOD and BAD, he loves, forgives, regrets, shows mercy, is angered, lies, gets jealous, is forgetful, sleeps, has to consume food and drink, wears clothes, dwells in a house, has a chair (throne) to sit on, gets angry and wrathful, vacillates, and contradicts himself -just what one would "expect" of a god made in man's image.
"Implicit in all these stories are a number of assumptions about the world...the gods are not always kindly disposed toward the human race...they are jealous or fearful of them, witholding...wisdom and eternal life...ancient peoples were provided with a wry sense of why the world was less than perfect -those who made and ran it were themselves flawed." (p. 429)
Kramer on the Sumerian notion that the god Enki (in Eridu) made man in "the image of the gods" (delegating the task to others):
"Enki gives the matter thought, leads forth the host of "good and princely fashioners,: and says to his mother, Nammu, the primeval sea:
"O my mother, the creature whose name you uttered, it exists,
Bind upon it the image (?) of the gods;
Mix the heart of the clay that is over the abyss,
The good and princely fashioners will thicken the clay,
You, do you bring the limbs into existence;
Ninmah (the earth-mother goddess) will work above you,
The goddess (of birth)...will stand by you at your
O my mother, decree its (the newborn's) fate,
Ninmah will bind upon it the image (?) of the gods,
It is man..."
(p. 109. "The First Moral Ideals." Samuel Noah Kramer. History Begins At Sumer: Twenty-seven "Firsts In Man's Recorded History. Garden City, New York. Doubleday Anchor Books. 1959 reprint of 1956 edition by Falcon's Wing Press)
Inerrancy Claims for the Bible ("Whistling in the Dark")
Those who believe the Bible is the word of God make the claim it is consequently _inerrant_ and posseses no error. Any finding of Science, Archaeology, Anthropology, or Geologogy which "contradicts" Holy Writ is automatically wrong. Please click here for another scholar's presentation on the Bible's inerrancy and infallibility.
Is the Bible really "inerrant"? It exists in several recensions in today's world. Today's Jews tend to use the Massoretic Text; the Samaritans have their own text which consists only of the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Hebrew Bible); the Greek Orthodox Christians use a Greek Septuaginta translation made in the 3rd century B.C. by Jews for Jews at Alexandria, Egypt; Syrian Christians use an "Aramaic" text called the "Peshitta"; Catholics use a text which is a mix of the Massoretic and Septuaginta, derived from a Latin Vulgate composed by Jerome; Some Protestant groups rely on the King James Version of 1611, while others opt for a Revised Standard Version.
What is readily apparent in _all_ these recensions is that they DISAGREE amongst themselves and CONTRADICT each other in "the fine details." Please click here for the PROBLEM of contradicting recensions of the New Testament noted by scholars and scroll down to section 7 on the "un-uniformity" of the NT Texts (presented most interestingly by a Moslem scholar refuting Christianity via the research of a number of Christian scholars).
Some Conservative scholars, faced with these _undeniable_ "contradictions and errors" among _all_ the above recensions have been forced to admit _they do NOT know_ which text or recension is the "inerrant" text, free of any and all errors!
Some scholars have opted for a "rationalization/speculation" which argues that the original text "_must have been_" error-free" or "inerrant" but that consequent transmissions or recopyings of the text through the millennia introduced copyiest errors. The problem? This rationale implies _God is impotent and unable_ to protect his holy word from corruption and error. It also implies that todays various faiths and their doctrines are built upon _errant_ texts.
Yet these "defenders of the faith," acknowledging they possess "errant texts" which contradict and disagree with each other, argue that these "errant texts" should be regarded as the "true and inerrant" word of God, and Science which dares to contradict God's "inerrant word" is wrong.
The claim that Genesis "is true" is really based on SPECULATION, not proof. No one knows if God revealed the origins of the world to Moses or not. How do we know that Moses did not "dream-up" the origins of the world and falsely claim it came from God? How do we know Moses wrote the Genesis account and not someonelse in another age? How do we know a serpent really convinced Eve to err? How do we know Adam and Eve were expelled from Paradise? No _proof_ exists for any of these "assertions". All we have are the SPECULATIONS of the ancient Hebrews set down in the Bible and the _unsubstantiated_ claim that all this was "revealed" to Moses.
I have already pointed out the problem in regards to claims of a "revelation" from a God -they are unverifiable. The ONLY revelations which are "subject to some form of verification" are specific claims to prophecies being fulfilled. I have already pointed out that my investigations revealed the prophets erred and their prophecies were NOT fulfilled.
In the end, one is left with choosing which groups' SPECULATIONS are believable: The _speculations_ of the ancient Hebrews preserved in Genesis, or the _speculations_ of modern Science, Anthropology, Archaeology and Geology?
Both groups claim they have the "correct" understanding of the origins of the world and of man.
The bible-believers DO NOT POSSESS AN INERRANT ERROR-FREE HOLY TEXT- in its place they offer their SPECULATIONS about a _supposedly_ now "non-existent" INERRANT TEXT, which the Hebrew God, for unknown reasons, _allowed to be miscopied_ over several millennia and evolve into the present day plethora of CONTRADICTING recensions.
Professor Steibing on three different and _CONTRADICTING_ dates for God's creation of the world calculated by Jewish, Catholic and Protestant scholars:
"Most scholars [prior to the 19th century A.D.] agreed that the world was only about six thousand years old, though there was considerable disagreement over the exact date of the creation. Jewish rabbinical calculations from the Hebrew Massoretic Text showed that the world began 3,740 years before the Christian Era. Roman Catholic tradition, based on the Latin Vulgate translation of the Bible, placed the creation in 5199 B.C. And most English-speaking Protestants accepted the seventeenth-century Archbishop James Ussher's calculation of the time of creation, 4004 B.C. Ussher's dates were placed in the margins of early eighteenth-century editions of the King James version of the Bible, making them seem even more authoritive." (p. 32. "The Discovery of Prehistory." William H. Steibing Jr. Uncovering the Past. New York & Oxford. Oxford University Press. 1994 [1993 Prometheus Books])
There is yet "another problem" in regards to inerrancy claims, and that has to do with the Holy Spirit. We are informed that this Spirit is alive and well today and that all of Holy Writ is God-inspired. The Holy Spirit also guides the pious against "error" in doctrine and belief, against the wiles of Satan, the "father of error."
For several centuries Christendom has waged war on various Christian sects claiming they were not led by the Holy Spirit but were "in error" and under Satan's influence, teaching the false doctrines of men for God's word. The Catholics eventually "excommunicated" the Greek Orthodox over doctrinal disputes and the Orthodox "returned the favor." Then arose Luther and Protestantism, a movement claiming Catholicism had "erred" and strayed from correct doctrines, when reforms were rebuffed by the Papacy the Protestants created their own churches and were excommunicated. Each group, claimed they possessed the correct doctrines" and were being led by the Holy Spirit and each claimed the others were in "error" and being duped by Satanic forces.
How can the Holy Spirit "be real" if _it could not prevent errors_ from creeping into the various recensions, and how can _all_ the various congregations, Catholic, Greek Orthodox, Samaritan, Jewish, Aramaic Syrian, and Protestant all be led by it ? They all can't be right, and no one knows who is right. It would appear that "the imaginary Satan" has triumphed. He has succeeded in corrupting the Holy Text with contradictions, such that no-one knows which is the correct inerrant text, and no-one knows which system of belief has the one true doctrine. Yet out of this mess of confusing and contradicting doctrines, comes a claim for the "inerrancy" of the Holy Text!
In a Court of Law the witness who CONTRADICTS HIMSELF is regarded with suspicion and distrust. If errors are discovered in his testimony, one learns "to question" all the witness' assertions. The various biblical recensions, all claiming to be God's witness, CONTRADICT themselves in various details (Please click here for contradictions in the ages of the pre-flood patriachs in Genesis in the Hebrew Massoretic Text and the Greek Septuaginta which was the "original" Bible of Christendom). As "witnesses" they must be treated with suspicion and only those claims which can be proved by examination of the evidence can be allowed. The disciplines of Archaeology, Geology and Anthropology have cross-examined "the witness," the alleged Holy Spirit, and the texts it supposedly generated by the hands of pious men and have found it "wanting". Science does _not_ support the biblical presentation of the origins of the world or of man as presented in Genesis.
The faithfuls' response is that Satan has "duped" the Scientists (Geologists, Archaeologists and Anthropologists), and that the Bible is God's trustworthy inerrant word.
There is yet one more problem regarding claims for the Holy Spirit and that is its alleged role in prophecy, especially from a Christian point of view. We are told it was the Holy Spirit that spoke to the Prophets, causing them to utter their prophecies. As I have already noted, my investigations into the Bible's prophecies revealed most if not all were unfulfilled in the lifetimes of the audiences they were intended for and unfulfilled to this present day. So this "fact" speaks volumes against the notion that the Holy Spirit is "real." Had it been "real" the prophecies would have been fulfilled in the lifetimes of the audiences hearing the prophet's words and the "manner" in which the events were to unfold would be without error.
2 Peter 1:20-21 RSV
"First of all you must understand this, that no prophecy of scripture is a matter of one's interpretation, because no prophecy ever came by the impulse of man, but by men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God."
For me, the "proof" that the Bible is God-inspired (of the Holy Spirit) and inerrant would be that no error would exist within its pages or in its various recensions (God is NOT impotent and unable to preserve his holy word) and _all_ the prophecies were fulfilled down to the smallest details _exactly in the manner predicted_ in the lifetimes of the audiences hearing them so that these audiences would know if a false prophet was speaking or not (God does not make mistakes). The fact that the various recensions do have errors and contradict each other in various details is "proof" for me this is not an "inerrant" text, its a creation of fallible men who do make mistakes and who do err, and the claims to the existence of a Holy Spirit, a God, a Satan and Demons are all bogus unsubstantiated "speculation."
That is to say, the "imaginary" Satan is understood by Christians to be "the father of error", it follows that _any_ composition created by Satan or written under Satanic influence, will, by necessity, be FULL OF ERRORS, as "Error is Satan's HALLMARK" in all that he does. It is then, quite "impossible" for Satan to create a composition and pass it off as God's handiwork, because Satan's works will ALWAYS POSSESS ERRORS. We should expect that God's written documents or compositions inspired by the Holy Spirit SHOULD BE DISTINGUISHABLE FROM SATAN'S by possessing NO ERRORS WHATSOEVER. The problem? _ALL_ Bible recensions POSSESS ERRORS, _ergo_ ALL BIBLES are SATANIC CREATIONS. If the Bible was _really_ God's or the Holy Spirit's creation it would be distinguishable from Satan's work by having NO ERRORS WHATSOEVER _FOR ALL OF ETERNITY_.
Christian Apologists of course are LOATHE "to impute error" to the Holy Spirit or God so they dismiss the errors found in all Bible recensions as man-made and of no big-deal, not compromising God's message. Error is blamed on human fallibility not the Holy Spirit. Only the original compositions, called "autographs," now univerally acknowledged to be lost, were INFALLIBLE and FREE OF ERROR. This of course is "_pure speculation_" on the Christian Apologists' part.
The Apologists think they are absolving God and and Holy Spirit of blame in claiming the errors in today's Bibles are man-made. The reality is that this Apologetic is a "slap-in-the-face" to God and his Holy Spirit, for it implies both were _impotent or didn't care_ and were UNABLE to preserve the holy word from Satan who led the scribes and translators down through the ages into making numerous textual errors, in defiance of the Holy Spirit.
So, in the final analysis, ALL BIBLE RECENSIONS ARE FULL OF ERRORS, revealing they are Satan's handiwork, and the Bible is not the handiwork of God or his Holy Spirit, for God's handiwork _ought to be_ distinguished from Satan's handiwork by an absence of ALL ERROR FOR ALL ETERNITY. Why? because Christian Apologists claim the Holy Spirit is still alive today and guiding the scribes and translators of todays Bibles, and this Holy Spirit also guides the Church in correct doctrines from the Biblical texts. The errors in today's Bibles are proof the Holy Spirit does not exist and is bogus. The contradictory dogmas and beliefs embraced by hundreds of Christian denominations, each in the past accusing the others of being in error and led by Satan, reveal Christianity's notion of a Holy Spirit's existence is false. For why would the Holy Spirit allow Christianity to fragment into so many contradicting denominations and give them Bibles full of man-made errors? In past ages Christians tortured fellow Christians into confessing heresy, then they burned the heretics alive at the stake in public pageants called Auto da Fe's (Roman Catholic). Protestants returned the favor (in England Catholics wre burned alive by Protestants). The wars of the Reformation of the 1500's and 1600's witnessed the savage butchery of Protestant against Catholic, each claiming the Holy Spirit led them into victory over each other, and that torture and burnings were with the Holy Spirit's blessings! What nonsense! The Holy Spirit told Christians to "turn the other cheek to their enemies and to pray for them", not torture, burn alive and kill fellow Christians! No, dear reader, there is NO Holy Spirit, NO God, NO error-free Bible. All of the foregoing Christian behaviors better fit the God of this earth, Satan.
Of course, I am being "tongue-in-cheek facetious" (playing the Devils' advocate) in the above discussion of the Bible being Satan's work, for I am a Secular Humanist who understands _all_ religions are bogus, they are the creations of men's imaginations, projecting man's loves, hates, fears and lusts onto imaginary gods.