Argonauts of the Desert - Wajdenbaum

Laura

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This review is from: Argonauts of the Desert: Structural Analysis of the Hebrew Bible (Copenhagen International Seminar) (Hardcover)

Years ago while researching the Hittites and their possible relationship to the patriarch, Abraham, I was reading Trevor Bryce's book "Daily Life of the Hittites" and was slightly electrified with his short discussion about the possible/probable relationship between the Epic of Gilgamesh and Homer's Odyssey.

Time went by and I went through all the works of John Van Seters in his search for the History of Israel and Abraham. In his book, "In Search of History", he discussed the relationship of the Israelite history to the historical texts of the ancient Near East and Greece, noting that, while we have many texts from the Near East with historical content, only the Greek histories parallel the biblical histories in their distance from the past that is being described. He noted at the time that there were numerous agreements between the substance and style of some of the OT books and works of Greek historians, particularly Herodotus. However, he didn't go into this in detail and I recall reading it and nodding vigorously because I had noticed the same things.

In 2002, Jan-Wim Wesselius wrote "The Origin of the History of Israel" wherein he argues convincingly that the structure of the OT from Genesis to 2 Kings is modeled on the Histories of Herodotus. He points out the striking parallels between the key figure of Joseph - who is the one who got the Israelites into Egypt in the first place - and King Cyrus, the founder of the Persian Empire. Some of these parallels are so precise that there is no wiggle room for evading the obvious borrowing. Further, there is amazing duplication of the genealogy of the patriarchs and the Persian-Median royal house, the most striking of which exist between the figures of Moses and King Xerxes. The main subjects of the stories about the two of them are that a leader is summoned by the divinity to bring an enormous army into another continent across a body of water as if on dry land in order to conquer somebody else's land. In both cases, the conquest ends badly, with a horrific siege, though in the case of Xerxes, it was within his lifetime, and in the case of the Israelites, it was when the Babylonians came much, much later.

Following Wesselius, in 2006, along came Russell Gmirkin's "Berossus and Genesis, Manetho and Exodus" where he argued his theory that the Hebrew Pentateuch was composed in its entirety about 273-272 BCE by Jewish scholars at Alexandria that later traditions credited with the Septuagint translation of the Pentateuch into Greek. The primary evidence he produced and argued effectively, in my opinion, was the literary dependence of Gen. 1-11 on Berossus' Babyloniaca (278 BCE) and the dependence of the Exodus story on Manetho's Aegyptiaca (c. 285-280 BCE), and the geo-political data contained in the Table of Nations. Gmirkin theorized that a number of indications within the text pointed to a provenance of Alexandria, Egypt for at least some parts of the Pentateuch. The suggestion was made that the many texts that would have to have been consulted to produce such a history probably were available only there. I don't see Wesselius in Gmirkin's bibliography and that is a bit surprising because it seems to me that their ideas dovetail nicely except that Wesselius proposes an earlier date for the composition. What is clear is that the OT author not only used Herodotus for his structure, he was in dialogue with Berossus and Manetho, ESPECIALLY Manetho and his derogatory ethnography of the Jews. Obviously it was seen that a slam-dunk history needed to be written that out-did every other apologetic history that was being produced during those time and that is probably what inspired the author to use the techniques he did which are so interesting to Wesselius.

That the Pentateuch was composed at almost the same date as the Septuagint translation, provides compelling evidence for some level of communication and collaboration between the authors of the Pentateuch and the Septuagint scholars at Alexandria. The late date of the Pentateuch, as demonstrated by literary dependence on Berossus and Manetho, has two important consequences: the definitive overthrow of the chronological framework of the Documentary Hypothesis, and a late, 3rd century BCE date for major portions of the Hebrew Bible which show literary dependence on the Pentateuch.

My own thoughts about this startling (and compelling) argument are that much of the OT was composed in Greek and only later translated into Hebrew and the Hebrew texts were corrected and fiddled with a bit which is why they no longer exactly match up with the LXX.

Moving on, in 2011, Bruce Louden contributed to the ongoing unveiling of the OT with his contribution: "Homer's Odyssey and the Near East". Louden has neither Wesselius nor Gmirkin in his bibliography and that, again, is surprising. Louden argues that the Odyssey is in a dialogic relationship with Genesis, which features the same three types of myth that comprise the majority of the Odyssey: theoxeny, romance (Joseph in Egypt), and Argonautic myth (Jacob winning Rachel from Laban). The Odyssey also offers intriguing parallels to the Book of Jonah, and Odysseus' treatment by the suitors offers close parallels to the Gospels' depiction of Christ in Jerusalem. (It turns out that the works of Homer are well-employed in the composition of the Gospels, too, as explicated by Dennis R. MacDonald, but that's off-topic here.)

We come now to the present book under consideration which is said to be a "revolutionary new commentary on the Bible and its origins, arguing that most biblical stories and laws were inspired by Greek literature." Well, as I have demonstrated in the brief review of the main books on the topic that I have read above, it's not so revolutionary, but it's the logical follow-up and is well-presented. Also, the author has Gmirkin, Van Seters and Wesselius in his bibliography though he apparently didn't read or build upon Louden's work which is a shame because there is a lot of meat there, too.

Basing his hypothesis on Wesselius' foundation's, Wajdenbaum argues that the Primary History - Genesis through 2 Kings - were written by a single author, a Hellenized Judean scholar who used Plato's ideal state in The Laws as a primary source. As such, biblical Israel is a recreation of that twelve tribes State and the stories surrounding the birth, life and death of that State were inspired by Greek epics. Each chapter presents the biblical material and compares this to the Greek or Roman equivalents, discussing similarities and differences.

What is even more surprising is that there are a couple of stories in the OT that appear to have been inspired by Roman history, specifically, the Rape of the Sabine Women. That would suggest that the author of the OT Primary history had access to the (now lost) works of Diocles of Peparethus who was the source for the history of Fabius Pictor as we are told by Plutarch. Diocles' own sources are unknown.

Obviously, the bottom line of all this research and unsettling conclusions is that the Hebrew Bible is certainly not a history of Israel and, as the archaeological record reveals, there probably was no early kingdom of Israel as described in the Bible yet it has been believed in for millennia as fervently as people believe that the sun will rise. The reactions to the above types of analyses are usually outright rejection even in the face of accumulating mountains of evidence that is considered conclusive in any other field of endeavor OTHER than Biblical Criticism. It is asked: if all this is true, how could generation after generation of scholars not have seen it? Wajdenbaum, trained as an anthropologist, is entirely competent to answer this question and he deals with it in his conclusions and that part of the book is well worth reading on its own.

Wajdenbaum proposes the Hasmonean era as being the most likely period in which the OT was established as the official national history of Israel and Judah. This was a time of a religious war between conservative and Hellenized Jews as described in the books of Maccabees, and part of the conflict may have been over whether or not this text was a real history of the Jews or not. The priests of the new Jewish state had the power to promote the Bible to sacred status and it was during the reign of the Hasmoneans that a man coming from Palestine, Antiochus of Ascalon, became the head of the Platonic Academy in Athens.

In a few generations, the Bible was accepted as the official history and after the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD, the rabbinical tradition that evolved forbade the teaching of "Greek Wisdom" so a confrontation between the text and its Greek sources was prevented. Christianity, carrying aspects of Judaism into the Greco-Roman world, faced pagans who pointed out the obvious: that the OT was based on Greek sources. The Church Fathers turned those arguments against them and proposed the "Satanic Imitation" theory to cover a multitude of comparisons. When Constantine gave power to the church, the question was answered by persecution by the Church/State and soon, the Christian emperor Justinian, closed the Platonic Academy.

Most Biblical Criticism today is still conducted by "true believers" in the sanctity and primacy of the text and it is in the form of the perpetuation of this dogma rather than true study and research. The Bart Ehrman "Search for the Historical Jesus of Nazareth" debacle of recent times is a case in point. He falls back on his title that gives him (and only others like him) the legitimacy to speak authoritatively about the Bible. Real scientific critics are not allowed to enter the biblical field. If they do, they are shouted down or ignored away by the Churches that grant the authority. As Wajdenbaum writes:

...[T]he game of confrontation between different paradigms during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries has only had the effect of diverting the quest for the sources of the Bible to within the Bible itself, a purely circular reasoning; Greek classical literature, although available in any university library, has remained confined to the fields of Greek studies and philosophy. ...Thus, even if biblical studies took on an appearance of a scientific speech that challenged the religious dogma, it has not, until very recently, crossed the line of suggesting Greek sources as direct inspiration for the Old Testament, a most unthinkable idea. The ignorance of such a possibility, the reactions of surprise, doubt and sarcastic hostility to my even suggesting it, are the result of more than twenty centuries of symbolic violence, exerted partly on the tacit demand of the believers. ...the maintaining of the Bible as a sacred text seems to have little to do with spirituality or belief; rather, it has to do with relations of power between the sacerdotal and aristocratic classes. [...]

"In 'Language and Symbolic Power', Bourdieu raises the question of censorship in an intellectual field, based on his own critique of a text by Martin Heidegger. Censorship does not necessarily come from an external authority, or even from the subject that would censor himself. The mechanism comes from symbolic violence, and the ignorance that it supposes...'

"In the case of the Bible, entire generations of scholars felt that they were allowed to speak only of the J, E, D and P sources. The imposition of a precise form in that field goes by a mandatory recognition of the theories produced by theologians, under penalty of ejection. ...The Biblical question is paradigmantic of Bourdieu's theory of symbolic violence, as Christianity is the dominant ideology of the Western civilisation. The refusal to recognise the Western roots of that religion, presented as necessarily oriental and Semitic, is the source of the most unbearable and oppressive symbolic violence exerted on every subject, from believers to atheists, who all ignore that which they should know. ... Christianity is Platonism for the People - that is the main ideology of our civilisation that has yet to be expressed in its objective truth."

So yeah, terrific book, brilliantly written and argued, and ought to be read in conjunction with it's fellows as itemized above.
 

Laura

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Leòmhann said:
Tremendous, Laura!! So much to take in and process. You never cease to amaze... Thank you so much!!!
What is amazing is how long I had to wait for some scholars to write these books exposing ideas I had over 20 years ago. But, obviously, their work is developed along scholarly lines while I just had ideas that drove me nuts.
 

SeekinTruth

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Thanks for this review, as well. The to-read list keeps growing longer and longer, as ever. :)
 

Laura

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SeekinTruth said:
Thanks for this review, as well. The to-read list keeps growing longer and longer, as ever. :)
Indeed! But, when I begin writing, I'm going to try to condense things for the reader along with including important excerpts so that those who have neither the time nor funds to acquire all the texts (not to mention the expertise to understand them which I work very hard for!), can benefit freely from this effort.

The results are as bad as we all suspected them to be - the greatest fraud ever conceived on almost all fronts. The only honest person in the whole mess appears to be Paul and we are hampered in getting to the bottom line there by two millennia of suppression and editing of texts. As Earl Doherty writes here: http://www.jesuspuzzle.humanists.net/century2.htm

As a final note, we might ask: where are the writers (for we might expect there to be some) who openly and in unmistakable words reject the figure of Jesus, with no possibility of ambiguity? Until we realize that no such document would ever have reached us through two millennia of Christian censorship. For probably the same reason, we possess no pagan writing which discusses the case for rejection of the historical Jesus. Even Celsus (who does not do this) survives only piecemeal in Origen's great refutation of him. On the other hand, it is likely that even leading pagan thinkers like Celsus would have had no way to verify or disprove the circulating Christian story and narrative accounts of Jesus of Nazareth, nor would they have possessed the exegetical tools and abilities to disprove Christian claims through a study of the documents themselves. In any case, all of these documents, given the poor state of communication and availability of materials in the ancient world, would hardly have been accessible to someone who might think of undertaking such a task.
 
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ka

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Hi, all:

when I begin writing, I'm going to try to condense things for the reader along with including important excerpts so that those who have neither the time nor funds to acquire all the texts (not to mention the expertise to understand them which I work very hard for!), can benefit freely from this effort.

The results are as bad as we all suspected them to be - the greatest fraud ever conceived on almost all fronts. The only honest person in the whole mess appears to be Paul and we are hampered in getting to the bottom line there by two millennia of suppression and editing of texts.
I want to chime in on the big thanks to Laura for chewing over all these texts for our benefit. As one of those who have the interest, but not the time nor the funds, I am REALLY grateful.

And the conclusion arrived at is of the greatest possible significance.
 

John G

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This review is from: Argonauts of the Desert: Structural Analysis of the Hebrew Bible (Copenhagen International Seminar) (Hardcover)

Years ago while researching the Hittites and their possible relationship to the patriarch, Abraham...
Did you ever officially pin Abraham to a Hittite? I know you have Abraham in the Amarna period and with Wajdenbaum linking Abraham to Athamas (mentioned in a Truth Perspective show), it looks to me like the Amarna period Hittite king (Suppiluliuma) fits with Athamas too (via second wife/stepmother of sorts Hagar/Ino/Tawannanna getting exiled cause of stepchildren abuse aka wrath of Helen avoidance for Hagar as you mentioned in a transcript). Suppiluliuma's first wife Henti was supposedly sent to Ahhiyawa (near Wilusa/Troy) but maybe not via the Herodotus Helen in Egypt you've mentioned?
 

Laura

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Did you ever officially pin Abraham to a Hittite? I know you have Abraham in the Amarna period and with Wajdenbaum linking Abraham to Athamas (mentioned in a Truth Perspective show), it looks to me like the Amarna period Hittite king (Suppiluliuma) fits with Athamas too (via second wife/stepmother of sorts Hagar/Ino/Tawannanna getting exiled cause of stepchildren abuse aka wrath of Helen avoidance for Hagar as you mentioned in a transcript). Suppiluliuma's first wife Henti was supposedly sent to Ahhiyawa (near Wilusa/Troy) but maybe not via the Herodotus Helen in Egypt you've mentioned?
No, haven't pinned Abraham to a Hittite, but I wonder if the stories of Abraham were built around Ay and Nefertiti? Of course, Aidan Dodson has a pretty good theory about the Amarna family relationships so I'm basically kind of floating in space about it. I've also thought that Abraham could be a split-off persona based on David or vice versa, just a hilltop fort warlord during Amarna times.
 
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Tuatha de Danaan

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Incredible !!!. What an amazing weight lifted off my shoulders. For someone who has to read nearly every book twice to retain
information , I am years behind, and with the information on this sight growing by the day I feel I'm just about
hanging on to all your shirt-tails.

Irish born Catholic from the age of 7 doubted my faith but devil on shoulder wouldn't set me free. I'm free now.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart.
 

Laura

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What has always boggled my mind is what could be called the "double standard" imposed by Biblical scholars which doesn't allow the usual methods of text studies to be utilized on the Bible that has proven so fruitful and revealing on all other types of ancient texts.

When I started this research project I kept noticing that things in the Bible were "an awful lot like" something in some other ancient text, but the answer was always "oh, they got it from the Bible" because, of course, the Bible was supposed to be the oldest.

Well, that whole thing got shot out of the water with the discovery of libraries of ancient Mesopotamian texts that were provably older even that the Bible was supposed to be and, lo and behold, there were stories there that were clearly plagiarized by the biblical author(s). For me, that deposed the Bible from its pedestal of sanctity.

The books mentioned above are just the outstanding ones in a whole field of study that has taken me many years to wade through. When you read them and see the text examples side by side, sometimes with entire strings of ideas in the same order, or even entire strings of words, you know that this bible business is a huge fraud.
 

John G

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No, haven't pinned Abraham to a Hittite, but I wonder if the stories of Abraham were built around Ay and Nefertiti? Of course, Aidan Dodson has a pretty good theory about the Amarna family relationships so I'm basically kind of floating in space about it. I've also thought that Abraham could be a split-off persona based on David or vice versa, just a hilltop fort warlord during Amarna times.
The books mentioned above are just the outstanding ones in a whole field of study that has takenme many years to wade through. When you read them and see the text examples side by side, sometimes with entire strings of ideas in the same order, or even entire strings of words, you know that this bible business is a huge fraud.
A guy I'm talking to in another forum likes a Philo idea of Abraham at the Tower of Babel; he's an atheist so at least the fraud part isn't a problem for him and who cares if a chess piece named Abraham actually did end up in a Tower of Babel story. He's into the Younger Dryas Impacts, Atlantis, and Aryans arriving on horses and found the Tower of Babel as related to Atlantis technology to be an interesting idea but even for him an atheist into some good ideas, the Bible makes it difficult for him to see Abraham in the Amarna period. One of his links even mentioned an article relating Moses to Akhenaten, Nefertiti, and Tutankhamun.

Ay unlike the Hittite king at the time does seem into Akhenaten's monotheism. Maybe when the Cs say "Hittite" they include the idea of Mitanni bloodlines in Nefertiti/Ay and Mitanni as a Hittite vassal? On the other hand the Hittite king can fit with Athamas and travel from Haran to Canaan like Abraham. Could be like with Jesus a composite character (including maybe that David-like historical unknown) though who would be like Caesar in his 5th density role; would it have to be some Moses guy from history as well known as Caesar?

Even if knowing truths in different areas wasn't such an important part of life, following the research you do in areas like this one would still be incredibly fun. Having real life be filled with more awe than any fictional universe is not something I would have expected from life.
 

Laura

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Thing is, the story of Moses is just a duplicate of the story of Abraham and Sarah; many tropes duplicated almost entirely.
 

mkrnhr

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There was in fact a similar push towards "monotheism" among the Hittites during the late bronze age (in fact, very close to Akhenaten's time) as shown in the attached file (The Hittite king Muatalli adopting the exclusivity of a Luwian god):
 

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caballero reyes

The Living Force
Laura said Reply 13:
"Thing is, the story of Moses is just a duplicate of the story of Abraham and Sarah; many tropes duplicated almost entirely".
-------

What about this similarity:

Huitzilopochtli, god oh Aztecs led the pilgrimage from the north of the continent or even beyond perhaps to the northwest (Siberia) to reach the promised land where they founded the Great Tenochtitlan in the Anahuac plateau, the so-called city of Mexico.

AND, VERY FAR FROM THAT REGION.

Jehovah / yave, the god of the Israelites guided the pilgrimage from Egypt to Palestine, the promised land.
 
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