Proceeding strictly from the physical evidence the material we consider to
be the Old Testament first appears in history as the Greek Septuagint.
Neither belief nor argumentation is acceptable. Only physical evidence is of
- There is not one prior mention of such material, stories or events.
There are a few questionable translations of single words or passages. There
are a few name similarities. In no case do any of these have any connection
with any event or situation in the bible.
- Today not one inscription has been found which predates it.
While Egypt is the most professionally dug place in the world, the
playground of more archaeologists than any place else in the world,
Palestine is a close second for the professionals. Palestine including
Israel teams with amateurs often thwarting the antiquities laws. In addition
modern Israel has had more construction per square mile in the last fifty
years than Egypt will likely see in the next century. Everything from homes
to highways, parking garages to high-rises, it is likely the most dug place
in the world.
The construction companies are ruled by the strict antiquities laws. Israel
itself has both a religious and a political drive to establish biblical
Israel. For the last half century Israel has financed digs aimed directly at
finding physical evidence of the Old Testament. Nothing has been
- Nor is there any sign of a Hebrew language which predates it.
There is a circular argument used by bible believers. When Phoenician
inscriptions are found outside the areas the Old Testament says the Hebrews
lived it is identified as Phoenician. When they are found inside those areas
it is identified as proto-Hebrew. Without the Old Testament
"guidance" the inscriptions are indistinguishable. What is called
proto-Hebrew is Phoenician.
By the simple rule for ancient writings, the first mention of a document is
the date of the document. This means the Greek Septuagint is the original
document. There is no mention of the Septuagint being a translation until
Josephus nearly three centuries later. The Greek Septuagint appears in
history full blown without antecedent or prior mention nor today with the
least physical evidence that it is other than the original.
Given the religious interest of the Christian world in evidence for the Old
Testament and of the Jewish world for both religious and political evidence
one would assume if the above were in error museums around the world would
display the evidence I say does not exist. These are the days of the
internet and many good search engines starting with Google.com. Please use
it to find these artifacts. You will be disappointed.
Israeli museums should be full of them. All you will find are artifacts of
other cultures mostly from the Greek and Roman period along with Phoenician,
Assyrian and even Egyptian. You will find nothing specifically related to
any biblical event or story.
When you get out of the professional links you will find circular reasoning
from the Old Testament. A typical mention will be "dated to the time of
Solomon." That is simply using bible begats to determine a time frame. We
can find artifacts in the New World dated to the time of Solomon. Saying
dated to the time of Solomon does not connect it to Solomon or Israel even
if found in Palestine.
To be an artifact of biblical Israel it has to have some intrinsic feature
which makes that connection. This is why the forged temple inscription was
of such interest when it came to light in 2004. It had words roughly like
those found in the Old Testament. Had it not been a forgery it would have
been physical evidence and would have been the first physical evidence that
the Old Testament predates the Septuagint and the latter being a
translation. The same people who created this forgery are also credited with
forging the "pomegranate" and the James ossuary.
In a more general sense simply showing bibleland was populated in the past
is meaningless. Ever since primates started leaving Africa millions of years
ago the land has been populated. Gibbons and orangutans lived there. Home
Erectus, Neanderthal and Sapiens have lived there. There is no way out of
Africa without passing through Palestine.
Another way of trying to salvage the Old Testament is to say "so much is
known that Solomon could have been no more than a local warlord." That is
not saying he was a local warlord or that he existed. It is phrased to true
believers can hold on to their beliefs.
The need to believe is strong. Consider those who would believe Solomon was
just a local warlord. Simply believing that says the entire Old Testament is
false as there is no biblical Israel, no great kingdom, nothing. It is no
different from finding an inscription outside of bibleland which only has a
name similar to a name in the Old Testament and saying it confirms all of
it. A find means absolutely nothing more than what it says internally. It is
physical evidence only of itself.
So who wrote it?
It appears about the time the Maccabees appear in history. By the physical
evidence all we have of them are a couple coins with the image of the
grandson of Judah Maccabe so we can't run too far with it. But it is the
only confirmed event we have which coincides with the appearance of the
Septuagint. Did the revolt in the books of Maccabe occur? There is no
evidence of it. We have only the story in the books. Remember we only have
those coins as evidence of their existence.
Why did they create it? I have no idea but I can guess. It does make their
claim to the land by conquest. Ownership of land by conquest was the only
basis for the claim until after WWII when it was formally abjured. We have
no idea if this is other than an modern aberration. Another possibility was
it was a guileless creation. The land was ruled by the eastern Greek empire
at the time; braggadocio in the books of Maccabe to the contrary as those
books are not part of the Septuagint. In this case it would be simply
recording the myths of the local people as the Greeks had recorded their
myths making it a simple matter of emulation.
How could they have created such a huge work so quickly? Perhaps even
creating a religion so quickly? We have seen Joseph Smith create the Book of
Mormon and a successful religion which shows no signs of disappearing. We
have L. Ron Hubbard creating Scientology and needs only make a few changes
to avoid future criminal charges to go mainstream. Given a plethora of
legends to work with cobbling something together would not be a significant
challenge. Given the history of the region, essentially always ruled by so
many other cultures all of those legends would have been available. Name
changes and making the people related no matter how incongruous would not
have been a difficult matter. For example, the life of Solomon is almost
identical to the life of Ramses III. It is obviously the model.
In addition we look at the Letter of Aristeas and see it gives an Egyptian
connection to the creation of the Septuagint. At the time it was created the
library of Alexandria was in its full glory. It would have contained
thousands of records from all three Greek empires as inspiration for the
stories. We cannot expect to identify them all as most all the contents of
the library were lost over a thousand years ago.
And yes, much of the Old Testament is incongruous. We do not find anything
intrinsically incongruous with fairy tales because we suspend disbelief, we
feel free to fill in the blanks and explain away incongruities. As we are
not only raised to believe it in but immersed in a culture which usually
behaves as though it believes in it we just do not notice the incongruities.
Very few of them are thrown in our faces by the text itself.
In a fairytale which do not have to make sense the stories are changed in
the retelling to make them more credible. Popularity chooses among the
retellings. So also a bible story rarely appears on its own, start to
finish. The scene is set, the story is liberally retold without regard to
the original content, and we are told what it means. There are very few
stories which hit us in the face as unexplainable such as Abraham
sacrificing Isaac and those are subject to unending explanations.
What does not make sense, what seems stupid, insane, irrational, becomes the
fodder for endless digression and explanation of the hidden meaning of the
story. If these were not considered "sacred" books but rather from
another religious tradition we would dismiss them for what they are, stupid,
insane and irrational. As they are from our religious tradition we search
for deeper meanings. If politicians were given this latitude we would also
believe they are geniuses who never lie.
For example the story of Adam and Eve clearly says why they were banished
from Eden, to prevent them from eating of the Tree of Life and living
forever to become gods themselves. But as that clear statement does not
comport with the Old Testament as a religion the clearly stated reason for
being banished is left out of the retelling. But if you leave it in you see
why the god of the Old Testament rules with the stick instead of the carrot.
And you can see why that god has no problem tormenting people like Abraham
The bible does not make sense as written. It is filled with magic and
miracles therefore it is nonsense. But people are told they must understand
it. People believe they are required to find ways to understand it. And
there is no dearth of people explaining it in different but acceptable ways.
As they are acceptable ways, people can accept mutually exclusive
explanations and still not come to blows.
The point of all of this is the collection of stories in the Old Testament
is not some massive, coherent work which implies some super editor in the
sky. It is a set of short stories with cardboard characters loosely stitched
together. As such the origin of the David and Goliath story can as easily
have been inspired by the Tortoise and the Hare fable as anything else. But
the good little guy beating the big bully is something all boys hear as
children and there is no reason to think this story has not been told to
boys back to the time humans had evolved enough to tell stories.
It is called great literature but it is never studied as literature
as it is barely literature. What little literary merit there is exists only
in the King James Version translation which introduces it. It does not come
close to the quality of ancient literature. It is dross compared to the
What has always struck me as interesting is the interest in the "Hebrew"
bible by true believers. Let us assume for the moment it is the original and
the Septuagint a copy. Fine.
Is not the Septuagint a translation into a very well known, relatively
unambiguous language, Greek, 2200 years closer to the original than us?
Would not they be immeasurably better qualified to know the real meaning of
the original than we? So why is not the Septuagint taken as the original
meaning? It is certainly the oldest meaning we have for the Old Testament.