Culture Magazine

The Bible: a Book of Fiction

By Fsrcoin

The Bible: a book of fictionAdam and Eve. Cain and Abel. Noah’s Ark. Sodom and Gomorrah. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Joseph and centuries of Egyptian slavery. Moses, Passover, the Red Sea, forty years in the desert. The tablets from Mount Sinai. Joshua and the conquest of Canaan. Kings Saul, David, Solomon. And so on.

Possibly there was a “King David,” though just a chieftain of a minor tribe. All the rest of these Biblical stories were fictional, resembling nothing that might have actually happened.

That’s archaeology’s conclusive verdict. Generations of Bible-obsessed searchers (like the ridiculous Ron Wyatt) have scoured the terrain, grasping for some shred of confirming evidence. Their claimed “finds” have always proven to be misinterpreted or simply faked. While proper archeology has actually turned up loads of proof that the Bible’s “history” never occurred.

The Bible: a book of fiction
The Hebrews were never in Egypt. The pyramids were built long before, anyway. The Egyptians left massively detailed chronicles that mention no Hebrews (let alone the Bible story’s vast horde). In fact, no Jews existed that early.

They only emerged somewhat later (in the 1200s BCE), as one tribe among many quite similar in Canaan; they grew apart religiously. The Bible’s bloody conquest tale — a monstrous crime against humanity — fortunately never happened.

The standard ancient belief system entailed multiple deities. Tellingly, the Ten Commandments did not say Yahweh was the only god — rather, the only one Jews should worship.

The Bible: a book of fiction
Originally, he seems to have been married to one of those other deities, Asherah, and it took a while to ditch her.

Some see the move from polytheism to monotheism as some kind of advancement. But it was just going from one variety of superstition to another. Though at least getting closer to the true number of gods.

Then there’s Mormonism, whose book depicts ancient Israelites sailing to America, leading to huge empires and thunderous wars, in what would actually have been relatively recent times. Not a single artifact has turned up. And then it says Jesus had his second coming in America.

The Bible: a book of fiction
We know Joseph Smith was a consummate con artist who wrote the book for self-aggrandizement. Multiple wives may always have been part of his plan, or maybe the happy thought was inspired by his unexpected initial success. Exploiting religious power for sex seems always to go with the territory.

And why was the Old Testament written? Those human authors weren’t trying to record actual events, they were consciously making the stories up. Which people are always doing — we call it literature. And the Bible was not necessarily written as a sacred thing, as we think of it today. Ancient people did not have our concept of a clear distinction between the secular and religious realms.

The Bible: a book of fiction
For them it was all just part of life, mashed up together in their storytelling. Which typically featured superhuman characters; Yahweh was just another.

They also had a different mentality toward violence. The Canaanite genocide story is just one example. Another is when some kids mock an old man’s baldness and are punished by being torn apart by bears. The “good book” is full of such horrors. Richard Dawkins called Yahweh the most unpleasant character in all fiction.

The Old Testament apparently first came together, as a book, during the “Babylonian captivity,” in the 6th century BCE, when some of the Jews were in exile and cut off from their ancestral roots. It was not surprising that they’d latch onto these stories as a cultural glue, a collective mythos, to hold them together and sustain a connection to those roots. But that’s very different from believing in the book’s literal truth. They probably had more sense in that regard than modern evangelicals.

(Some points in this essay recap one by Neil Carter (“Godless in Dixie”), reprinted in the CDHS newsletter.)


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