07/04/2007

Who Wrote the Bible? [Old Testament]

I must have missed this being on TV, but I managed to source a copy. It is a documentary by Robert Beckford, a Christian, and his journey to uncover who wrote the bible. I found it interesting to note that Beckford attributes his personal success and in some cases his morality to being raised as a Christian.

Early on in the documentary Beckford said something which I, as an atheist, was relieved by. He said that studying the history of the bible made him doubt his own beliefs. The ability to question religious beliefs is an important liberty.

Traditionally the first five books of the Bible are attributed to Moses, although the archaeological evidence suggests that the people at the time were unable to record their history. Interestingly Beckford makes the claim that archaeology tests historical truth. He seems more confused however regarding whether a lack of truth means the bible is wrong. Beckford must be applauded as a Christian for actually seeking sound evidence, and ignoring 'Biblical Archaeology' where evidence is skewed to promote the accuracy of the Bible. Indeed he talks with Israel Finkelstein, a renowned mind from Tel Aviv University, about, amongst other things, the dating of the Solomonic Gate.

Interestingly archaeology has provided no evidence for a Jewish kingdom or the exodus from Egypt, indeed at that time Jerusalem was not the capital of a great empire, but a small village.

The documentary's destruction of the Old Testament focused mainly on the pentateuch (the books of Moses). The Mosaic authorship of the pentateuch is questioned first by the Deuteronomy account of Moses' death - something impossible to write about in the first person. The weight of the evidence however came from Beckford's discussion with Jill Middlemas of the University of Oxford, who explained to him the theory, first advanced in the 19th Century, that the pentateuch itself comes from four separate authors.

This would not be so bad for the authenticity of the bible if these sources agreed on the very nature of god. In the 'J' text god converses with his peoples directly, whereas in the 'E' text god can only talk through intermediaries. There is not even a single word (or name) for god! This leads to the 'revelation' that the "Bible is a big editing job".

The most interesting point made on this is a rhetorical question: why have these details not filtered to the church going public?

The question of dating the Old Testament is left fairly open. A later limit is set at 586BC (the year of the destruction of Judah, which one of the Psalmist believes would stand forever). The Psalmists were also clearly aware of all four of the pentateuch texts.

Beckford then goes on to investigate the various spin-like modifications of the texts' meaning, favouring at various times monotheism, suffering and hope.

Particular mention is made of the prophet book Isaiah, although the authorship is split between more than one author. Perhaps the most important concept introduced by these authors is the prophecy of a messiah. as Beckford puts it; mission+messiah=hope for future.

So where do the Dead Sea Scrolls fit into the picture? These scrolls, found in the 1940s, are from a radical Jewish sect, the Essenes. The 'Temple Scroll' irons out many of the inconsistencies in the Old Testament, so why was it rejected? If it had been written previously it may well have been accepted as the word of god, however the Old Testament had been around long enough to become accepted, and the word of god could no longer be modified.

Well, that's it for now. I will comment on the New Testament soon, drawing from the same documentary. The documentary also reminded me to do a piece on Zionism, so that too should be up here shortly.

Somebody e-mailed me to say that I just regurgitate other articles and sources. That is true, I want to build a kind of mini-library for a while here, and I will add comprehensive personal analysis later when I have added sufficient source summaries. May sound odd but it makes sense to me!

2 comments:

Agnostic Atheist said...

I recently wrote a blog somewhat related to this subject:

http://agnosticatheism.wordpress.com/2007/04/02/the-circular-reasoning-of-christian-apologetics/

aA

Losing My Religion said...

What amazes me the most is that it really matters who wrote the bible at all, considering where its real origins are from...the pagan emperor Constantine. How can anyone have any respect for, much less base their entire belief system on, a book that was paid for and edited by a man who was so opposite in his beliefs than that from which they profess their loyalties to?

OH, could it be because hardly anyone has bothered to look at the origins of the bible (much less read it), they just blindly believe the parts of it that are convenient just like all the other lemming christians around them?

Whew, sorry...little rant there. lol

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