debate notes

Greetings to all and thank you Sal for the opportunity to debate on your show. Thank you LaRon for agreeing to participate in this debate.

What is a myth?

a traditional story, especially one concerning the early history of a people or explaining some natural or social phenomenon, and typically involving supernatural beings or events.

Daniel Gavron

” the Bible is not an entirely reliable historical document. Corroborating evidence is required, and some indeed exists; but it is not conclusive.”

“The Bible is not – and was never intended to be – a historical document. A work of theology, law, ethics and literature, it does contain historical information; but if we want to evaluate this information we should consider when, how and why the Bible was compiled.”

The biblical account of the capture of the city is the only one we have, and in the opinion of most modern scholars, the Bible is not an entirely reliable historical document.

The Bible is not – and was never intended to be – a historical document. A work of theology, law, ethics and literature, it does contain historical information; but if we want to evaluate this information we should consider when, how and why the Bible was compiled.

Until comparatively recently, the Bible was accepted as the word of God by most Jews and Christians, and therefore scholarly works dealing with it concentrated on its interpretation. In the 19th century CE, the “Age of Reason,” scholars began subjecting the biblical texts to linguistic, textual, and literary analysis, noting inconsistencies and interrupted rhythms, comparing styles, and placing the text within the archaeological, historical and geographical background.

There are still many differing opinions regarding the origin of the Bible, when it was written, and under what conditions; but it is fair to say that, outside fundamentalist circles, modern consensus suggests that the assembling and editing of the documents that were to constitute the Bible began in the seventh century BCE, some three centuries after David’s time. (The earliest actual material in our possession, part of the Dead Sea Scrolls, dates to the second century BCE at the earliest).

In particular, the account of Joshua’s conquest of Canaan is inconsistent with the archaeological evidence. Cities supposedly conquered by Joshua in the 14th century bce were destroyed long before he came on the scene. Some, such as Ai and Arad, had been ruins for a 1000 years.

The Book of Judges, which directly contradicts Joshua, and shows the Israelites settling the land over a prolonged period, is nearer historical reality; but even it cannot be taken at face value. The archaeological surveys conducted over the past two decades indicate that the origin and development of the Israelite entity was somewhat different from either of the rival accounts in the Bible. The survey was conducted by more than a dozen archaeologists, most of them from Tel Aviv University’s Institute of Archaeology.

Around 1200 bce, semi-nomads from the desert fringes to the east and the south, possibly including Egypt, began to settle in the hill country of Canaan. A large proportion – probably a majority of this population – were refugees from the Canaanite city states, destroyed by the Egyptians in one of their periodic invasions. The conclusion is somewhat startling to Bible readers who know the Canaanites portrayed in the Bible as immoral idolaters: most of the Israelites were in fact formerly Canaanites. The story of Abraham’s journey from Ur of the Chaldees, the Patriarchs, the Exodus, Sinai, and the conquest of Canaan, all these were apparently based on legends that the various elements brought with them from their countries of origin. The consolidation of the Israelites into a nation was not the result of wanderings in the desert and divine revelation, but came from the need to defend themselves against the Philistines, who settled in the Canaanite coastal plain more or less at the same time the Israelites were establishing themselves in the hills.

Thus the founders of Israel were not Abraham and Moses; but Saul and David. It was apparently Saul who consolidated the hill farmers under his rule and created fighting units capable of confronting the Philistines. It was David who defeated the Philistines and united the hill farmers with the people of the Canaanite plains, thus establishing the Kingdom of Israel and its capital city.

from Ha’aretz Magazine, Friday, October 29, 1999)

Following 70 years of intensive excavations in the Land of Israel, archaeologists have found out: The patriarchs’ acts are legendary stories, we did not sojourn in Egypt or make an exodus, we did not conquer the land. Neither is there any mention of the empire of David and Solomon. Those who take an interest have known these facts for years, but Israel is a stubborn people and doesn’t want to hear about it

Let’s first deal with the bible. Exactly what is the bible? The bible is defined as the scriptures/sacred writings for those who identify as Jews and Christians.

One of the first people to challenge the bible’s veracity and subject it to literary criticism and analysis what Julius Wellhausen

The documentary hypothesis (DH), sometimes called the Wellhausen hypothesis, proposes that the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Bible) was derived from originally independent, parallel and complete narratives, which were subsequently combined into the current form by a series of redactors (editors). The number of these narratives is usually set at four, but this is not an essential part of the hypothesis.

The contribution of Julius Wellhausen, a Christian theologian and Christian biblical scholar, was to order these sources chronologically as JEDP, giving them a coherent setting in a notional evolving religious history of Israel, which he saw as one of ever-increasing priestly power. Wellhausen’s formulation was:

the Yahwist source (J) : hypothetically written c. 950 BCE in the southern Kingdom of Judah.
the Elohist source (E) : hypothetically written c. 850 BCE in the northern Kingdom of Israel.
the Deuteronomist (D) : hypothetically written c. 600 BCE in Jerusalem during a period of religious reform.
the Priestly source (P) : hypothetically written c. 500 BCE by Kohanim (Jewish priests) in exile in Babylon.
While the hypothesis has been increasingly challenged by other models, especially in the last part of the 20th century, its terminology and insights continue to provide the framework for modern theories on the composite nature and origins of the Torah[2] and Bible compilation in general.

Who were the Israelites

According to Israel Finkelstein Author/Archaeologist the Bible Unearthed, William G.Dever Author/Archaeologist

-They were Canaanites, Polytheists, who worshiped different gods and goddess starting with El(father god of the Canaanite Pantheon)-Elyon, Baal, Yahweh, Asherah(the consort of each) . El theophory Israel, Ishmael, Samuel, Bethel Daniel.

Israel Finkelstein (Hebrew: ישראל פינקלשטיין, born 1949) is an Israeli archaeologist and academic. He is the Jacob M. Alkow Professor of the Archaeology of Israel in the Bronze Age and Iron Ages at Tel Aviv University and is also the co-director of excavations at Megiddo in northern Israel. He served as Director of the Sonia and Marco Nadler Institute of Archaeology at Tel Aviv University from 1996-2002.[1] In 2005 he received the Dan David Prize.[2]

The Dan David Prize grants three prizes of US$ 1 million for outstanding achievement each year. Fields are chosen for Past, Present and Future.

The Dan David Prize is awarded for innovative and interdisciplinary research. Prize laureates donate 10 percent of their prize money to doctoral scholarships for outstanding Ph.D. students and postdoctoral scholarships for outstanding researchers in their own field from around the world.[1]

“The Israelites were never in Egypt, did not wander in the desert, did not conquer the land [of Canaan] in a military campaign and did not pass it on to the twelve tribes of Israel. Perhaps even harder to swallow is the fact that the united kingdom of David and Solomon, described in the Bible as a regional power, was at most a small tribal kingdom.”

Jerusalem was essentially a cow town, not the glorious capital of an empire. These findings have been accepted by the majority of biblical scholars and archaeologists for years and even decades.

“Research is research, and strong societies can easily endure discoveries like this.” By comparison with today’s skeptical turmoil, the early years of the modern Israeli state were a honeymoon period for archaeology and the Bible, in which the science seemed to validate the historical passages of the Old Testament left and right. As Finkelstein and Silberman relate, midcentury archaeologists usually “took the historical narratives of the Bible at face value”; Israel’s first archaeologists were often said to approach a dig with a spade in one hand and the Bible in the other. The Old Testament frequently served as the standard against which all other data were measured: If someone found majestic ruins, they dated them to Solomon’s time; signs of a battle were quickly attributed to the conquest of Canaan. Eventually, though, as archaeological methods improved and biblical scholars analyzed the text itself for inconsistencies and anachronisms, the amount of the Bible regarded as historically verifiable eroded. The honeymoon was over.

Neil Asher Silberman (born June 19, 1950, Boston, Massachusetts) is an archaeologist and historian[1] with a special interest in history, archaeology, public interpretation and heritage policy. He is a graduate of Wesleyan University and was trained in Near Eastern archaeology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Awarded a 1991 Guggenheim Fellowship, he is a contributing editor for Archaeology Magazine and is a member of the editorial boards of the International Journal of Cultural Property, Heritage Management, and Near Eastern Archaeology.

Guggenheim Fellowships are grants that have been awarded annually since 1925 by the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation to those “who have demonstrated exceptional capacity for productive scholarship or exceptional creative ability in the arts.”

Hector Avalos (born October 8, 1958) is a professor of Religious Studies at Iowa State University and the author of several books about religion.[1] He is a former Pentecostal preacher and child evangelist.[2]

He has a Doctor of Philosophy in Hebrew Bible and Near Eastern Studies from Harvard University (1991), a Master of Theological Studies from Harvard Divinity School (1985), and a Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology from the University of Arizona in 1982.

Christine Hayes

B.A. summa cum laude Harvard University;
M.A. and Ph.D. U.C. Berkeley

Christine Hayes is Robert F. and Patricia R. Weis Professor of Religious Studies in Classical Judaica. Before joining the Yale faculty in 1996, she was Assistant Professor of Hebrew Studies in the Department of Near Eastern Studies at Princeton University for three years. Her published works include several books and many articles in Vetus Testamentum, The Journal for the Study of Judaism, The Harvard Theological Review, and various scholarly anthologies. Her first book, entitled Between the Babylonian and Palestinian Talmuds (Oxford University Press, 1997) was honored with a Salo Baron prize for a first book in Jewish thought and literature, awarded by the American Academy for Jewish Research (1999).

William L. Moran summarizes the state of the chronology of these tablets as follows:

Despite a long history of inquiry, the chronology of the Amarna letters, both relative and absolute, presents many problems, some of bewildering complexity, that still elude definitive solution. Consensus obtains only about what is obvious, certain established facts, and these provide only a broad framework within which many and often quite different reconstructions of the course of events reflected in the Amarna letters are possible and have been defended. …The Amarna archive, it is now generally agreed, spans at most about thirty years, perhaps only fifteen or so.[4]

William Lambert Moran (August 11, 1921 – December 19, 2000) was an American Assyriologist. He was born in Chicago, United States.

In 1939, Moran joined the Jesuit order. He then attended Loyola University in Chicago, where he received his B.A. in 1944. After this, he taught Latin and Greek in a high school in Cincinnati between 1946 and 1947. He resumed his studies at Johns Hopkins University and gained his Ph.D. in 1950. After further studies he worked on the “Chicago Assyrian Dictionary”, and in 1955 he taught biblical studies at the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome between 1958 and 1966.

In 1966, he took the position as professor of Assyriology at Harvard University, and was respected as a rigorous and learned teacher of the Akkadian language who could easily discuss problems in Biblical lexicon and literature. He was married to Suzanne Drinker in 1970. In 1985, he was appointed Andrew W. Mellon Professor of the Humanities Emeritus, and in 1996 he was made a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

He retired in 1990, and moved to Brunswick, Maine, where he died in 2000. In 2005, a 224 page book titled ‘Biblical and Oriental Essays in Memory of William L. Moran,’ edited by Agustinus Gianto for Biblica et Orientalia 48 was published by Roma: Pontificio Istituto Biblico to honor his career and memory.[1]

Publications[edit]
His doctorate, under W.F Albright, studied Canaanite glosses in the Amarna letters and was significant for the understanding of biblical Hebrew. Other significant publications include the standard translation and commentary of “The Amarna Letters” in 1992. These texts document the international and imperial correspondence of the Egyptian Pharaohs around the time of the Egyptian kings Amenhotep III, Akhenaten and Tutankhamun. Many other journal articles concerned illuminating studies of Akkadian literature, including the Gilgamesh Epic.

William Lambert Moran (August 11, 1921 – December 19, 2000) was an American Assyriologist. He was born in Chicago, United States.

In 1939, Moran joined the Jesuit order. He then attended Loyola University in Chicago, where he received his B.A. in 1944. After this, he taught Latin and Greek in a high school in Cincinnati between 1946 and 1947. He resumed his studies at Johns Hopkins University and gained his Ph.D. in 1950. After further studies he worked on the “Chicago Assyrian Dictionary”, and in 1955 he taught biblical studies at the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome between 1958 and 1966.

In 1966, he took the position as professor of Assyriology at Harvard University, and was respected as a rigorous and learned teacher of the Akkadian language who could easily discuss problems in Biblical lexicon and literature. He was married to Suzanne Drinker in 1970. In 1985, he was appointed Andrew W. Mellon Professor of the Humanities Emeritus, and in 1996 he was made a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

He retired in 1990, and moved to Brunswick, Maine, where he died in 2000. In 2005, a 224 page book titled ‘Biblical and Oriental Essays in Memory of William L. Moran,’ edited by Agustinus Gianto for Biblica et Orientalia 48 was published by Roma: Pontificio Istituto Biblico to honor his career and memory.[1]

Publications[edit]
His doctorate, under W.F Albright, studied Canaanite glosses in the Amarna letters and was significant for the understanding of biblical Hebrew. Other significant publications include the standard translation and commentary of “The Amarna Letters” in 1992. These texts document the international and imperial correspondence of the Egyptian Pharaohs around the time of the Egyptian kings Amenhotep III, Akhenaten and Tutankhamun. Many other journal articles concerned illuminating studies of Akkadian literature, including the Gilgamesh Epic.

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