What can the last decades of archaeological and linguistic research tell us of how the Old Testament came into existence? When was it written, by whom and what was its background?
King David and his kingdom?
King David is a central figure in the stories of the Jewish history. According to the prophet Samuel David started out as a shepherd boy, he killed the giant and the philistine Goliath with a slingshot and eventually founded a kingdom. According to Biblical chronology he led his army to Jerusalem around 997 BC. Page up and page down the Old Testament celebrates the glorious king David who was chosen by God and became the founder of the Jewish nation. His sat on his throne for 40 years controlling a great kingdom stretching from the banks of Euphrates to the Mediterranean coast. But where on earth are the remains of this huge and glorious kingdom??
In a slope in East Jerusalem there is an archaeological excavation area called “the house of David”. Here you’ll find some very modest ruins of a 16 square meters building without both hearth and windows. According to 1 Kings chapter 10 there was as much silver as stones in David’s Jerusalem. The miserable building remains of “the house of David” do surely not verify this.
Through the recent years of archaeological excavations the Bronze Age Jerusalem has shrinked down to a small village with approximately 2000 inhabitants. The Egyptologist Rolf Krauss calls it a “provincial nest”. With pollen analysis, studies of written cuneiform sources, and studies of ancient Egyptian texts, the real story of the Hebrews emerges from the myths. In the light of modern science the credibility of the Bible disintegrates, - the Old Testament histories are simply not true.
Some examples: The exodus from Egypt never happened and Canaan was never conquered by force by the Hebrews as Joshua tells us. The great kingdoms of David and Solomon are fantasies. These “kings”, if they really ever existed at all, ruled at best some insignificant parts of the province. “The Word of God” is pervaded with political propaganda, fiction and is mostly worthless as a historical source.
Development of Jehovah
The development of monotheism is also different than the version the Holy Book want us to believe. Even the almighty God was once a small insignificant deity. Originally Jehovah was a nature deity, a fertility deity responsible for rain and sun and good crops. All over the holy land idols made of metal or clay are found, both female and male idols. The Jews worshipped a polytheistic fertility religion. Their main male tribal god originally also had a female companion. As late as 100 BC the farmers around Jerusalem practiced polytheistic fertility rituals. And in Jerusalem the temple prostitution flourished. The Jewish prohibition on making depictions of God is also far younger than the Bible claims. In Ugarit, 400 km from Jerusalem, a small figurine of clay was excavated. The figurine shows a bearded man an depicts “El”, the wise one and heavenly father, - an early version of Jehovah. Excavations also show that the Jews had altars of limestone where they honoured their ancestors and made offerings to the natural deities. Rain deities are always popular in desert areas, and the rain god Baal was worshipped in several varieties, - one of which was Jehovah.
The Jewish uprisings in 66-70 AD were a last desperate resistance after centuries of occupation, being conquered and exploited by the mighty neighbouring states. The Romans crushed the rebellions without mercy, and after the last uprising they levelled Jerusalem and the temple and brought its treasures to Rome. In an atmosphere of despair and rage, the Jewish religious megalomaniac Messianic fantasies prospered. The powerlessness of the Jews found an outlet in the myths and made up a glorious national history and dragging their enemy’s names through the dirt. In the Bible the tower of Babel (Babylon) is a ruin, in reality it stood 90 meters high. The Bible tells us that the walls of Jericho was brought down by trumpets, and bloody stories of God’s gruesome punishments of the enemies of the Jews like the Pharaoh of Egypt, the Babylonians, the Assyrians and against other local enemy tribes. Stories with little or no basis in reality whatsoever.
“The Word of God” is permeated with lies and historical forgeries. A group of forgers, often called the Deuteronomists, changed the stories and fabricated the story of the Promised Land. The inconsistencies and contradictions of the Old Testament are clear evidence of its incoherent creation process. Even the main character is not portrayed as particularly coherent either. Sometimes he is called Jehovah, sometimes El or Elohim, sometimes he is a cloud, other times a pillar of fire or just a voice from above.
The oldest known biblical texts are the Qumran scrolls, carbon dated to between 240 BC and 100 AD. The Qumran scrolls are actually not originals but just copies of copies. The Qumran scrolls include some texts (30 %) from the Hebrew bible, but only parts of Isaiah from the Christian Bible.
There are tree different traditions when it comes to dating the Old Testament (OT):
the “traditionalists” who believe OT came into being about around 1000 BC,
the “moderate” who think OT emerged around 600 BC and
the “minimalists” who think OT is a Hellenistic work which must have been produced after 330 BC. That is, after the writings of Plato and Aristotle were known.
The minimalists have some major points here: It would be very strange to find elements of historiography, ethics and political science a long time before Plato, Aristotle and Socrates first described these concepts. If OT is as old as the traditionalists or moderate think it is very strange that no one in Antiquity knows of these early geniuses of Judah who forestalled the ideas of Plato and Socrates several hundred years earlier.
The Greek historian Herodotus does not know of any of the major Jewish events the Bible tells about. The spiritual achievements in the texts are in no way comparable to the technological level this small area of desert at the time. This is evident in for example work on an irrigation system started in 720 BC to bring water into Jerusalem in subterranean channels. The system is full of dead end channels, when they chiselled their way in the wrong direction time after time. This flawed irrigation system is of course called a marvellous triumph of construction in the Bible.
The results of recent both archaeological, linguistic, and historical studies, tend to strengthen the case that the OT was produced in the very last centuries BC.
According to Biblical chronology the forefather Abraham lived around 1800 BC, and the Exodus happened around 1250 BC. Abraham is in the Bible riding his camel, even though this animal was not domesticated in this area until 1000 BC? And how could the Jews in Genesis chapter 42 pay for their seeds with coins when the oldest known coins are from the seventh century BC in Asia Minor?
The stories in Joshua of how the Jews and their furious God eradicated the native population and their many pagan deities, and settled in Canaan are pure fiction too. Archaeology have revealed that this area was peacefully populated over very long time. At 1000 BC approximately 50.000 people lived in the northern parts of Canaan (the mountain area up until the Sea of Galilee). In the southern parts (between Jerusalem and Hebron) it was a barren desert, inhospitable and with little water and vegetation, and of course very scarcely populated.
The tribes of the area had their quarrels and fought each other occasionally, but the real ruler of the area was the Egyptian Pharaoh who expolited the copper mines here. Pharaoh established a chain of fortified strongholds all over the area so it is not very likely that Moses could start any campaign in this heavily fortified area. Pharaoh also demanded tribute from the population and those who refused to do forced labour duty for the Egyptians fled to the mountains. Some think that the name “Hebrew” originally stems from these outlaws in the mountains called “Hapiru” (vagabonds).
Good old Moses is also just a mythical figure who never lived. The same is probably also the case for King David and his son Solomon. The texts ascribed to Solomon in the Bible are written centuries later than when he supposedly lived. In 1993 an inscription some interprets as “The house of David” was found in an old settlement site called “tell-dan” in East Jerusalem. The inscription itself have only six consonants, the vowels in-between you have to add yourself, and the inscription is thus open to several different interpretations. Religious inclined people like to see this as “evidence” of the Biblical King David. The problem here is that the settlement remains isa small miserable 16 square meters building without both hearth and windows, not exactly a Palace. If there once existed a King David in this area, he was never more than a petty king over a small territory.
According to the holy Bible the most glorious and shining kingdoms rose in this barren desert. Where, in reality, only a few bearded shepherds shuffled around in the dust with their sheep, the marvellous kingdoms of David and Solomon should have flourished, says the Bible. These kingdoms were richer than any other kingdom on earth, still according to the Bible. Still, all efforts to find some remains of these fantastic kingdoms have been futile. The great Temple Solomon built of stone and filled with enormous amounts of gold is nowhere to be found. In David’s Jerusalem there was as much silver as stones (1 King 10,27). Yeah, right. Recent archaeology has revealed that Jerusalem was at best a small village at the time.
Who wrote the Pentateuch?
Behind the Pentateuch (aka the Jewish Thora) there are at least five different authors involved. Among all the fiction and plagiarism the writers have slipped in names of real places and real historic figures to make it more believable. In reality the original state of Israel was established sometime around 884 BC in the northern parts of Palestine with a population of ca 100.000. South of Israel Judah was established with Jerusalem as its centre, and had approximately 10.000 inhabitants living in scattered settlements.
These to mini states didn’t last long, as the Assyrian empire expanded in the ninth and eighth century BC and conquered vast areas in the Middle East. The tiny state of Israel soon became the Assyrian province of Samaria, but the poor and puny Judah was not interesting enough and spared at first. The Assyrian conquest was merciless and huge populations were deported. Some 13000 Jews from Israel were deported, and there was a flood of people fleeing to Judah and the population of Jerusalem grew from 2000 to 15.000. Probably it was at this turmoil and pressured point in history the idea of one mighty god and monotheism emerged. In a squeeze between the super power Egypt and later the mighty Assyrian, Babylonian and Roman empires without any chance of military resistance whatsoever, the Jews turned to metaphysics.
Maybe it is King Josiah (639 - 609 BC) who should be credited for this. He is praised in the Bible as a king who seeks religious unity, who tries to get rid of all foreign gods and will free the people of Israel through a strict fulfilment of the religious laws and regulations. King Josiah ordered his priests to find a religious patron and to start to write the “national epos” of the Promised Land. From being a small tribal deity, and later the city god of Jerusalem, Jehovah was promoted to be a universal god. Religious ideas of the influential Assyrian culture also had its influence on this redefining of the Jewish God.
Through uncompromising monotheism, strict religious laws and hard penalties and bans to make offerings any other place than in the temple, the priests of Jerusalem strived for a total monopoly on faith. In the Old Testament texts it is obvious that the Judean Jews tries to blacken their neighbours to the north (Israel) to support their own role as defender of the only true faith.
In the year 587 BC the Babylonian ruler Nebuchadnezzar II took Jerusalem on his way to Egypt. Many of the Jewish elite were deported to the metropolis Babylon. In the Jewish colony at the base of the enormous tower of Etemananki (the tower of Babel), towering 91 meters high, the Jews romanticised and further developed the dream of the Promised Land. In the melting pot of Babylon, their religious concepts were influenced by new ideas from, among others, Persia and the Zoroastrism with its prophet Zoroaster or Zarathustra.
Zoroastrism had a huge impact on Judaism and later on the Jesus myth. This religion focused on the battle between good an evil, it was a monotheism with one universal god (Ahura Mazda), and one prophet and saviour (Zoroaster). The idea of the final judgment with salvation or eternal damnation was adopted by the Jews and of course later became a central part of Christianity. After monotheism was established in the Jewish religion, the writers tried to change all traces after the old polytheism in the holy texts.
The Maccabees also edited part of the Old Testament texts, according to the experts. The Maccabees were a group of high priests and kings who fought for the independence of Jerusalem around 140 BC. The stories of the purely fictional conquering of Canaan by the Hebrews where thousands fell for the sword of Jews and the hand of God, suits the time of the Maccabees when there also was fought fierce battles over territories.
Recent research results, analyses and debates of the origin and dating of the Pentateuch (the Jewish Thora) are no issue in Israel today. In Israel, it is the sentimental fanaticism that dominates. The background and history of the Jewish and Christian religion, is a collection of texts full of wishful thinking, myths, political propaganda and pious lies, written in the very last centuries BC.