Sunday, January 9, 2011

Yahweh - El

The first real post in quite some time!

Okay, this is a subject that has fascinated me in the last few months, and it has to do with the origin of Judaism. Where did what we know as Judaism originate? When did it first show its face in history? What did it arise out of?

We first have to start out by looking at the people of Judaism, and not the religion itself. Who were the Israelites and where did they come from? This is answered fairly conclusively by modern archaeology. Archaeologists have discovered that Israel as a people did not begin to exist in Palestine until after the fall of Canaanite city-culture at the end of the Late Bronze Age, (~1200BCE) up until that point, the Israelites were simply Canaanites, who worshipped Baal, Asherah and El Elyon. In fact the Israelites (we really mean Judahites here because the entire Old Testament is written from the perspective of Judah, and the northern tribes of Israel never ceased being polytheistic) continued to be polytheistic up until the 7th century BCE, when Josiah authored (or commanded someone else to author) the book of Deuteronomy, and redacted all the earlier texts to have a distinctly Yahweh-favouring angle (See Documentary hypothesis). The texts were only later redacted and added to by the Priestly source during the Babylonian exile ~500BCE to have a monotheistic view.

What then do we make of the accounts in the Bible of the Israelites worshipping one god since the creation of the world? What about Abraham? Noah? Moses? Joshua? David? Solomon? Archaeologists have only discovered a single tablet mentioning but one of these characters: David. Abraham, Noah, Moses, Joshua and Solomon remain entirely under the radar which seems rather strange considering Abraham was meant to be the father of Israel and Noah the father of [nearly] all mankind. Moses is purported to have led a group of over a million Hebrew slaves out of Egypt and wandered in the deserts of the Eastern Mediterranean for 40 years, yet we have no traces of him. Joshua allegedly took an army and wiped out the Canaanite people, yet we have no evidence that large groups of Israelites even existed, let alone armies that wiped out cities (there are many other problems with the accounts of Joshua which I have addressed previously). The only hint that we have that David existed is a single inscription in a tablet that simply refers to the 'House of David', we haven't uncovered a single piece of evidence that lends to the idea that the northern kingdom of Israel and the southern kingdom of Judah were united under a single king, or even that a kingdom even existed at all.

It seems rather obvious to me that whatever traces of historical data may have existed within the Bible have long been obscured, and the development of Judaism was a gradual process over many centuries, not as a result of revelation from god. Where does this leave Christianity? Jesus was supposed to be the Jewish Messiah, inheriting the throne of David, but we have already discovered that if David existed, he never had a throne since there was no united monarchy to begin with. Jesus was establishing a second covenant, but as far as we can tell, there was no first covenant, as the religion of Judaism didn't exist at the time the first covenant was supposed to have been made. Christianity seems to have been left in a rather uncomfortable position since the religion has its roots deeply in a religion and culture that quite obviously were of human origin.


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. Hmmm.

    You obviously aren't aware that support for the Documentary Hypothesis as a whole has been significantly disputed in Old Testament scholarship in the last few decades - let alone the particular brand of it you mention here. You simply quote it as fact. Might pay to do some research beyond whatever sources you're using.

  3. I wouldn't go so far to say significantly disputed. As far as I'm aware the large majority of seminaries/divinity/theology schools, and even some 'conservative' ones teach the documentary hypothesis.

    Regardless of the accuracy of the documentary hypothesis, we still don't know who wrote the damned books. Furthermore, the historical accuracy of them is thoroughly discredited by archaeology.

    Unfortunately it will be some time before I get to read any more books on biblical criticism, because I'm a bit busy studying science at university.. Perhaps I'll get to read something in my mid-semester break, if not then my mid-year break.