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Reply #168: So why don't you ask Peacetrain whether she believes [View All]

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okasha Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jul-03-11 11:55 AM
Response to Reply #164
168. So why don't you ask Peacetrain whether she believes
Edited on Sun Jul-03-11 12:00 PM by okasha
the parts of the Bible in question are literally true?

Why ignore or disregard some parts of scripture? Easy. The Bible is not a book. It is books, plural, produced over a minimum period of seven hundred years by different writers with different political and religious agendas. What you are referring to as the OT god is actually the god of the Josaian reforms. Oddly enough, like Josiah and the Deuteronomist wrter, this god is intent on establishing monotheism, asserting the primacy of temple worship in Jerusalem, expanding Judahite territory to encompass the northern kingdom of Israel, and wiping out the "idolatries" that had hitherto been an accepted part of the religion of Judah and Israel. This was the point at which a unified kingdom of Judah and Israel comparable to the kingdom attributed to David and Solomon almost emerged. Unfortunately for Josiah, he pissed off Pharaoh Necho as he passed through Israel on his way to do battle with the Assyrians and paid for his indiscretion with his life.

The books created by, or under the supervision of, the Deuteronomist writer reflect Josiah's era and are meant to glorify him and his policies. These include Deuteronomy itself, the "newly discovered ancient scroll of the law;" Joshua; Judges and the "Court Histories:" Samuel, Kings and Chronicles. Archaeology (see Finkelstein's and Silberman's The Bible Unearthed has fairly clearly demonstrated that there was no "conquest of Canaan" as presented in the book of Joshua. Rather, the "Israelites" emerged from among the Canannite population of Palestine, pastoralists who settled into an agricultural lifestyle in the highlands but had little to distinguish them from other Canaanites except a taboo on pork. There were no massacres, at the behest of Yahweh or anyone else. Saul, David and Solomon appear to have been local chieftains centered in southern Judah. Possibly they were, or began as, bandits. Possibly David made himself a nuisance to the Philistines. He doesn't seem to have been more than that. The glories of the united kingdom presented in the court histories were actually "borrowed" from the wealthy Omride kindom of Israel, ruled by the dynasty that included Ahab and Jezebel. And again, they were meant to promote Josiah as the restorer of former glory. There's history in there, yes, but you have to dig for it. Literally.

You, are, though, precisely right when you make the comparison to the Iliad. What we have in the books of Exodus, Joshua and parts of the court histories is a deliberately composed national epic. The men--probably it was exclusively men--who produced these narratives were not "ignorant Bronze Age sheepherders." They were literate, intelligent and clearly familiar with the Mediterranean and Mesopotamian cultures around them. Judah/Israel was emerging as a nation among other nations. Achaia had its Homeric poems; Assyria had Gilgamesh; Egypt had an extensive religious and secular literature; of course Josiah's kingdom should have an epic of its own.

And so we have the triuphant exodus from Egypt, poking a finger in the eye of Josiah's nominal Egyptian overlord on the way. We have the conquering hero Joshua and a reprise with David. (The single combat between David and Goliath is probably constructed on the Greek model of the combat of champions, eg., Hector and Achilles.) It's a wonderful, rattling adventure story, with lots of sex and violence and no small flavor of soap opera in spots. It's very much like every other national epic, in fact, with the god(s) taking part and favoring his/their chosen heroes. What it is not is anything resembling accurate history.

The god of this epic, by the way, is very, very different from the Yahweh of the prophets in the later books of the OT. Isaiah's god is the lord of the peacable kingdom; Micah's god requires his followers to "do justice and love mercy; Zechariah and others dwell on the future kingdom of Yahweh on earth,ruled by the king/messiah in perfect peace and justice. The change reflects the later history of Israel as it was repeatedly conquered and depopulated by various of its neighbors, and it transitions seamlessly into a New Testament milieu in which Israel is once again occupied by a much stronger, tyrannical power. It's not Josiah's triumphalist god that Jesus preaches; it's the prophets' god who suffers with his people.

So I have another question: given that what we have here is not one book but many, not one author but many, not one theological viewpoint by a widely differing array of theologies--why is it a matter of contention that a reader or believer should credit different parts of the collection selectively? Why the support the fundamentalist view that it's a unified, connected narrative when the evidence is directly to the contrary?
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