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ARGUMENTS AGAINST BIBLICAL LITERALISM I:

Deconstructing the Old Testament


a theological essay by Sheila T. Harty
If youve ever had a Jehovah Witness knock on your door, you may want to have some scholarly arguments to defend yourself against biblical literalism. A deconstruction of biblical texts and sources reveals the hand of man, not God. A good place to begin is the first five books of the Bible, also known as the Pentateuch or, in Judaism, as the Law or the Torah. These alleged Five Books of Moses Genesis, Exodus, Numbers, Leviticus, and Deuteronomyare the main scripture shared as sacred by Catholics, Protestants, and Jews.

espected biblical scholars know that the Bible is not the literal word of God. They know that Moses didnt write the Five Books of Moses; David didnt write the Psalms of David; and Solomon didnt write the Song of Solomon. Unfortunately, the impressive biblical scholarship of the past 200 years has not been made available to those in the pews. Who would dare? Those in the pulpit? If the inherited faith were shaken, the coffers might dry up. Episcopal Bishop James Shelby Spong put it succinctly: The Christian Church is living now on the basis of capital from the past: traditional patterns of thought that have not yet been challenged sufficiently in the minds of the masses.1

The Hebrew Scriptures, which Christians know as the Old Testament, is a collection of selected writings by Israelite authors writing in Hebrew and Aramaic between 1100 and 100 BCE. These books are predominantly a transcription of their oral tradition. In that sense, Hebrew scripture is neither history nor literature, fact nor legend, poetry nor law. It is all of that and lessless, because the process of compiling and transcribing the source documents also includes revising them; thus, some loss of their integrity results. Even the most historical sections are not accurate in all detail. When oral histories are written down, heroes of folk legend get transformed into tribal leaders and sacred ancestors. 2 Historians date Mosesif he ever livedaround mid-13th century. Yet no knowledge of the Five Books of Moses was recorded before the 6th century. The politics of religion are important for understanding how the Bible took shape. Biblical sources may have been transmitted orally, but they were transcribed politically. Political in the sense of selective dissemination of information among classes of people for control of collective meaning. In this sense, the Bible is a political agenda for the priestly class of Hebrews of the late-6th century BCE. They were in control of the final revision. In fact, priests backdated sections to Moses authorship in order to ensure their acceptance as divine revelation. Thus, the priests codified religious law, claimed religious authority over the law, and proclaimed the law as divinely inspired. Thats politics, not religion.

MODERN SCHOLARSHIP

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1

iblical scholars in the 19th century were finally able to decipher more accurate sources of authorship. Their historical-literary approach was rooted in text, form, and source criticism through linguistics, philology, and archeology. Biblical scholars analyze written documents in order to

John Shelby Spong, Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism: A Bishop Rethinks the Meaning of Scripture (San Francisco CA: HarperCollins Publishers, 1991), pg. 35. 2 Robert H. Pfeiffer, The Books of the Old Testament (New York NY: Harper & Row, 1965), pp. 7-8.

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decipher the script, translate the words, and interpret the historical context. The scholarly term is exegesis from the Greek word interpret. Textual deconstruction then is an exegetical approach to Scripture.

Linguistics
ll languages are bound by rules. Written documents provide forensic evidence as effectively as biological evidence. Each local dialect and provincialism of speech are phonetic clues to reveal the origins of each stage of linguistic evolution. Thus, biblical scholars can determine the locality and time period of source material through the linguistic particularities that distinguish narrative documents by comparing the form, structure, and vocabulary of language.

A S

Philology
cholars of philology analyze written documents and compare them with other documents in different languages. An added difficulty with Hebrew scripture is that Near East scribes periodically revised ancient documents to update them, unlike Greek and Roman scribes who left obvious archaic spelling, grammar, and vocabulary as characteristic of the text. 3 Another tendency of Near East scribes was adding their own commentary within the as text or in the margins, which greatly affects what the next copyist or translator did. They usually worked it in. Legal and liturgical passages were particularly affected by this.

Archeology

iblical scholars use the findings of archeology as confirming evidence to support linguistics or philology. Finding extensive temple construction in Babylon and Egypt reinforced why ancient local documents seemed dominated by a priestly class. 4 The co-existence of mansions and hovels found in Bronze-age Palestine supported documentary evidence of striking social inequality. 5 Some 19th century highlights radically changed scholars interpretation of Hebrew scripture: The Rosetta Stone discovered in 1799; Persian cuneiform deciphered in 1802; Mesopotamian antiquities unearthed in the 1800s; Egyptian hieroglyphics deciphered in 1822; Phoenicians Semitic alphabet deciphered in 1837; Palestinian topography reconstructed in 1838; Excavations of Assyria in 1843 and Egypt in 1845; The Library of Ashurbanipal in Ninevah in 1850; Excavations of Troy in 1882, followed by Mycenae, Crete; The Babylonian Code of Hammurabi discovered in 1901.

THE DOCUMENTARY SOURCE THEORY

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espected biblical scholars agree that the earliest narrative material in the Hebrew scripture is dated around late 10th century BCE. Everything prior is oral history around campfires, generation after generation. The most broadly accepted theory among biblical scholars to explain repetitions, contradictions, and anachronisms is that the scribes who transmitted the Pentateuch possessed earlier written narrative traditions, identified as J, E, D, and P. These four letter codes distinguish four separate strands of narrative material. Each had its own agenda, which was eventually altered when merged into one narrative. After four and a half centuries of compiling, revising, altering, and merging, the resulting text is a humanly constructed composite. Textual analysis can distinguish these separate sources by theme and
Ibid., pg. 79. W.F. Albright, From Stone Age to Christianity: Monotheism and the Historical Process (New York NY: Doubleday Anchor, 1957), pg. 62. Ibid.

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style. To deconstruct these interwoven texts, scholars separate the earlier from the later sources as well as rework the earlier by the later, then compare languages, symbols, and images with other and earlier textual material, both within and beyond that cultural locale. In this process of deconstructing language via culture in time, scholars distinguish myth from history. 6 The documentary source hypothesis 7 of JEDP has held since 1880 as the best explanation of how the Pentateuch evolved. 8 However, as it is still a hypothesis, scholars have dissenting opinions. Specifically, scholars of oral tradition studies have questioned whether the technology of manuscript production at the time could support the theory of a scribe stitching together bits of this and that into a fundamentally new composition. Nevertheless, the hypothesis still has a default position among many. Even those committed to the alternative oral traditional hypothesis agree that the biblical text shows clear signs of having been subjected to a variety of editorial and stylistic reworkings that suggest a very long process of development. So the documentary source hypothesis offers an observation point on textual and form criticism. Clearly, as Bishop James Shelby Spong has said: [the Bible] did not drop from heaven in a complete and final form, written in Elizabethan English. 9 So how did biblical scholars distinguish these sources? The first clue was the name of God. In Genesis, Yahweh is used for the name of God in some sections (the J material) and Elohim in others (the E material), but the two names are not used interchangeably. The hypothesis was that their use represented different source material. Other differences also came to light. The J and E sources are now accepted as coming from different places at different times100 years apartbut each tells the history of the Hebrew people and their God. In addition, scholars also recognized that none of the primary sources was an independent literary unit. Each was a compilation of earlier material from multiple sources: Midian, Babylonian, Assyrian, Canaanite, Egyptian, and Arabic. So biblical scholars also distinguish between J1, J2, and J3 or E1 and E2, etc. For example, within the Moses material in Exodus: Most religious ideas expressed by Moses can be linked with the Pharaoh Amenhotep IV who ruled Egypt in the mid-14th century BCE. The episode 10 between Joseph and the wife of Potiphar, his Egyptian master, was from the Egyptian Tale of the Two Brothers in a manuscript from late 13th century BCE. 11 The plot of the Joseph stories 12 was also found in Story of the Seven Sages written in Egypt in the 12th century BCE. Consequently, editors of these narrative strands are easier to identify than authors. In biblical scholarship, the ancient editors are called Redactors, because they did more than edit. They pieced together ancient manuscripts, unified literary and legal documents, and, in the process, adapted them to whatever polemical or reformist agenda had motivated the effort. When confronted with divergent accounts of the same event, Redactors had a few options. 13 They could eliminate one of the accounts; eliminate both; combine them; supplement one with the other; reproduce both as reports of successive events; or reproduce both as different perspectives on the same event. Ironically, that last more reasonable option was rarely chosen. J and E were edited by the same Redactor, who scholars call RJE; he chose to weave both narrative strands together as JE.

6 7

Elmer W.K. Mould, H.Neil Richardson, and Robert F. Berkey, Essentials of Bible History (New York NY: Ronald Press Co., 1966). Also called the Graf-Wellhausen Hypothesis for Karl Heinrich Graf (1815-1869) and Julius Wellhausen (1844-1918). 8 Pfeiffer, pg. 31. 9 Spong, pg. 43. 10 Genesis 39:7-23. 11 Pfeiffer, pg. 39. 12 Genesis chapters 37 through 47. 13 Ibid., pg. 101.

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D had a Redactor, who scholars call RD; he chose to supplement JE with D. P had a Redactor called RP who would have preferred to replace JED with P, but JED had become so popular that JEDP resulted instead.

That sequence of compiling, adapting, and unifying brings us to 400 BCE when all recognized source documents of the Pentateuch were finally merged. Changes, of course, persisted for more than 1,000 years through copying and translating, but no new source material were included in the canon of sacred Hebrew scripture.

Documentary source theory about J...


Following the death of Solomon, the Hebrew nation had a civil war and the land was split between a northern kingdom (Israel) and a southern kingdom (Judah). Js vocabulary and phrasing is characteristic of the tribe of Judah. In the south, the Jerusalem temple and the royal house of David dominated. The J source reflects familiarity with these heroes of Judah and the major tribal events around Jerusalem between 950 and 850 BCE. In the J source, God is called Yahweh and is distinctly anthropomorphic, e.g., walking in the Garden of Eden. J tells an epic story about how the Jewish nation emerged from humble beginnings to finally triumph under the guidance of Yahweh. Js narrative is patriotic and uses vivid and forceful language with graphic metaphors and dramatic dialogue. The J source opens with what is now the second story of creation (Gen 2) and moves through the Hebrew patriarchsAbraham, Noah, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, and Moses on Mount Sinai. Moses is Js main character. J compiled this national epic out of stories circulating orally among the Israelites. Some of these stories were Canaanite and Egyptian folk tales. The Hebrews knew their shrines were originally Canaanite before being dedicated to Yahweh, as the Canaanites were the pre-Hebrew inhabitants of the land. In fact, the only genuine traditions of ancient Israel in J are the stories of Joseph, Moses, and the invasion of Canaan; the rest of J is adaptations of Canaanite stories. 14

Documentary source theory about E...

After the northern kingdom of Israel split from the southern kingdom of Judah, the north lost access to Jerusalem and claims to the royal house of David. A new religious focus was needed. Around 850 BCE, a northern and anti-royal interpretation of the history of the Hebrew people was compiled. This version reflected Gods covenant with the people of Israel as opposed to their leaders. Unlike J, the E source consistently eliminated all physical appearances of God to the patriarchs, except to Moses. E has Moses on Mount Horeb, not on Mount Sinai as J does, and E calls God Elohim and avoids any anthropomorphic descriptions of God.

The political motive of the northern kingdom is apparent in Es character development, such as Jacobs two wives. 15 Leah, the mother of Judah, the dominant tribe in the south, is described in derogatory terms. While Rachel, the grandmother of Ephraim, the dominant tribe in the north, is described in flattering terms. The E narrative is epic, like J, but less nationalistic. E does not begin with creation, as J does, but with Abraham and Jacob. Jacob is Es main character. The E source associates the patriarchs with the shrines to Elohim in Hebron, Beersheba, and Bethel rather than with the Jerusalem temple. Like the J source, E uses Canaanite legends circulating in the north but omits the Judean stories from the south. E refers to the pre-Hebrew inhabitants of the land as Amorites, not Canaanites as J does. The difference between J and E

14 15

Pfeiffer, pg. 38. Spong, pp. 47-48.

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has been compared with the difference between the Iliad and the Odyssey. 16 J is simpler, nobler, more objective; E is romantic, emotional, and more detailed.

Theory about the redaction of JE...


When the capital of the northern kingdom of Israel fell to the Assyrians, some Israelites fled to the southern kingdom of Judah, bringing with them the E documents. The literary treasures of the north now became the possession of the south. By the end of 8th century BCE, the E and J material probably needed copying, as the skins or papyrus would be disintegrating. However, since they each presented a similar storyline, their Redactor (RJE) probably thought it more sensible to weave the two documents together rather than recopy them separately. 17 In this way, a new body of literature was created, which presented the combined heritage of the northern and southern kingdoms as a narrative of the growth of the Hebrew nation. Redactors have points of view that inevitably affect the text produced. With the probable intent to win over the surviving population of Israel from the north, JE emphasized the importance of the Jerusalem temple in the south and the Davidic dynasty in Judah. RJE discarded Js story of the death of Moses and the conquest of Canaan in favor of the less historical but more romantic accounts in E. Scholars know this because of scattered fragments of the J account in the Hebrew scriptures of Numbers, Judges, and Joshua.

JE

Documentary source theory about D...


In 621 BCE, King Josiah of Judah ordered repairs on the Jerusalem temple. During these repairs, a Book of the Law was found in the temple. 18 The book codified a series of specific religious reforms and, under King Josiah, became the basis for the most rigorous reform in biblical history. The book was considered the second giving of the law (the first was to Moses) and so it was called Deuteronomy deutero for second and nomas for law. It was also the first book canonized as sacred scripture. Although the book has not endured in its original form, scholars consider it embedded in the recognized Deuteronomy. 19 Biblical scholars believe that the D source is a product of the Levitical group in northern Israel. 20 Rather than found in the temple in 621, D is believed to have been compiled previously from earlier material of the northern kingdoms legal tradition. It was then edited into the form of a sermon by Moses and left in the temple to be found. That is, the document was misrepresented in order to give authority to reformist views by accrediting divine inspiration through a legendary patriarch. This practice of pseudonymously ascribing editorial revisions of prior documents to well-known persons was not uncommon.

Theory about the redaction of JED...


Over the next 25 years, the D source was added to the JE combination by an unknown Redactor, who scholars call RD. This Redactor made only minor changes and additions, as JE was already known to many and D was expressing the still current reform mission. Thus, the newly merged text was revised in light of these Deuteronomic views. So JED emphasized centralizing all worship in the land under the supervision of the Jerusalem priesthood, closing all religious shrines except the Jerusalem temple, and decreeing that Passover could be celebrated only in Jerusalem. The JED Redactor also reworked the Hebrew scriptures of Joshua, Judges, Samuel 1 and 2, and Kings 1 and 2.

JED

16 17

Pfeiffer, pg. 54. Mould, Essentials of Bible History, pg. 345. 18 2 Kings 22:8-13. 19 Mould, Deuteronomy Chpts. 5-26 and Chpt. 28, pg. 328. 20 Ibid., pg. 329.

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Documentary source theory about P...


Some 25 years after the book of law was found in the temple, the nation of Judah was defeated by the Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar. The Jerusalem temple was destroyed, and the people were taken captive to Babylon. During their Babylonian exile, the Hebrew people were led by their priests: Ezekiel, Nehemiah, Ezra, etc. The priests approach in this national crisis was to assert religious tradition, so that the people would perceive themselves as special and maintain their national identity in captivity. The priests did this by reviving two ancient traditions that had fallen into disuse: circumcision and Sabbath observance. These became the distinguishing marks of a Jew. Biblical scholars believe that all of the P material originated in Babylon around 500 BCEthat is, postexilic. The P narratives are easily detected by their exacting phrases, precise inventories, concise definitions, and generally by a repetitious and pedantic style. Because of Ps juristic bent and its codification of ritual law, this source is known as the Priestly Code. Only priests who were lawyers could have conceived of religion as a theocracy regulated by a divine law fixing exactly, and therefore arbitrarily, the sacred obligations of the people to their God. 21 P, of course, borrows from Babylonian sources but revises the material to conform to Hebrew priestly principles, thus an old story is used to authenticate new legal prescriptions. Because P had a precise pedagogical motive, its organization is recognizable. The narrative of P reinforces what the priestly writers considered the four most important ceremonial institutions: 22 observance of the Sabbath, the prohibition against eating blood, circumcision, and the Passover. P is also the source of Genesis 1: In the beginning Ironically, the first line of the first book in the Hebrew scriptures is one of the last parts to be written. The priestly writers of P inserted a new story of creation with day-by-day increments that culminated in a 7th day of rest in order to give the Sabbath observance a cosmic primeval origin as ancient as the moment of creation. The P writers created much of Exodus, almost all of Leviticus, and major portions of Numbers. Many of the Psalms were by the priestly writers, too. Remember, By the Rivers of Babylon 23 Ps version of the Ten Commandments is in Exodus 20:1-17. This version (as well as the version in Deuteronomy 5:6-21) was influenced by the Babylonian Code of Hammurabi of 1800 BCE. Hebrew scribes appropriated these moral strictures during their captivity in Babylon. Thus, as one biblical scholar wrote: It is only by faith that we can regard [the Ten Commandments] as the text written on two tables of stone under divine direction. 24

Theory about the redaction of JEDP


All Hebrew literature was considerably revised, reworked, and edited after the fall of Jerusalem and the consequent Babylonian exile. 25 J, E, JE, and D were in existence by then as were the books of Judges and Samuel. Consequently, these old stories were revised with new meaning. The intent was to reinvigorate and recommit the faithful in exile. For example: The Noah story 26 was altered so that only one pair of unclean animals were conscripted but seven pairs of clean animals, so that sufficient animals were available for ritual sacrifice and still preserve the species.

JEPD

21 22

Ibid., pg. 91. Mould, pp. 435-436. 23 Psalm 137. 24 Pfeiffer, pg. 77. 25 Ibid., pp. 353. 26 Genesis 7:1-10.

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The story of manna in the wilderness 27 was edited so that the people gathered two days supply on the 6th day in order not to work on the Sabbath. The story of Abraham 28 was revised to place the origin of circumcision into the life of Israels founding father. The Exodus story of the plagues of Egypt 29 was changed by inserting Aaron, the symbol of the high priesthood in Israel, into the role of Moses. 30 The priestly writers thoroughly revised the merged JED narrative into JEDP by inserting then current practices into ancient tradition to reflect the growing theocracy of the Hebrew nation. Scholars have identified other literary sources, but JEPD are the accepted primary sources. P had the last word as the last major addition to the Hebrew Canon. Biblical scholars have a law of exegetical scholarship: that the final redactors perspective on a biblical narrative is inherited by later interpreters, who in turn insert their latest traditions into former versions. 31

TRANSLATION ERRORS
he Bible has always been known only through translationeven for Jews. By the time the last Hebrew scripture was written, only the priests and rabbis were educated in Hebrew. The common people ceased to know or understand the language. They spoke Aramaic. In Palestine, when the Hebrew scriptures were read in synagogues, an oral translation had to be given in Aramaic, the language most Jews used. Jews outside Palestine used Greek. So around 250 BCE, the Pentateuch was translated into Greek for Jews who knew neither Hebrew nor Aramaic. This translation is known as the Septuagint. 32 These Hellenized Jews valued almost anything in Hebrew as sacred. As a result, they included in the Septuagint more scripture from Palestine than was later canonized as divinely inspired by the Jewish Council of Jamnia centuries later. 33 This additional material is called the Apocrypha, which Catholics include in the Old Testament but Protestants do not. The potential for error in translating Hebrew to Greek was as vast as the difference between the East and the West. Hebrew is a mytho-poetic language. Its main characteristic is metaphor, which is poetic, not rational. Words paint pictures; ideas are expressed as objects; and cause and effect are depicted by sequential action. Furthermore, the Hebrew language had 22 letters but no vowels. Even when dots or diacritical marks were added later on consonants to indicate intended vowels, translators had to distinguish these marks from other detritus of decay on ancient papyrus, leather, or parchment manuscripts. 34 Errors of translation were inevitable. The Greek and Latin translations as well as the English translations were copied by hand in monastic schools, usually under the impetus of some reform movement. Consequently, scribes often supplemented original text with editions, glosses, and variants for both vernacular and polemical reasons. Also, the text was written with all capital letters and no separations between sentences and paragraphs. Imagine the errors!

27 28

Exodus 16:14. Genesis 17:9-14. 29 Exodus chapters 7 through 10. 30 Gerald A. Larue, The Analysis of the Pentateuch, Old Testament Life and Literature (Internet Infidels, 1997). 31 Geza Vermes, Scripture and Tradition in Judaism, as quoted in Introduction to the Complete Dead Sea Scrolls by Geza Vermes (New York NY: Fortress Press, 1999), pg. 179. 32 A word that means seventy (70) as supposedly was the number of translators involved. 33 90 CE. 34 In the 9th-10thcentury CE, Jewish scholars called Masoretes added vowel markings on the consonants and created a system of chanting symbols so future generations reading Hebrew scripture would understand proper pronunciation. The Masoretes also made spelling changes and provided white spaces in between words to breakup the continuous text. vowel markings in the Masoretic text.

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Six hundred years passed before the Septuagint was translated into Latin by St. Jerome. 35 Called the Vulgate, this vernacular translation was intended for the Latin-speaking Western world as the Septuagint was for the Greek-speaking Mediterranean world. A millennium passed before John Wycliff produced the first English translation from the Latin in 1382, intending to usurp the domination of the clergy by giving the people a Bible to read themselves. The invention of the printing press in 1436 created unlimited opportunities for errors. By the end of the 16th century, 300 printings and a dozen revisions existed in 16 languages. Numerous editions are even named for the translation errors, typographical errors, or other arcane goofs that crept in: 36 Breeches Bible is so named because Genesis 3:7 reads: ...and they sowed figge leaves together and made themselves breeches. Bug Bible was a 1535 edition in which Psalm 91:5 read: Thou shalt not nede to be afrayed for eny bugges by night. Rebeccas Camels Bible is an 1823 edition in which Genesis 24:61 reads: Rebecca arose and her camels (instead of damsels)... Standing Fishes Bible was an 1806 edition in which Ezekiel 47:10 reads: And it shall come to pass that the fishes shall stand on it, instead of fishers as in fishermen. Treacle Bible is another name for the Bishops Bible of 1568 in which Jeremiah 8:22 reads: Is there no tryacle in Gilead, instead of balm. Printers Bible was a 1702 edition in which Psalm 119:161 has David complain: the printers (instead of princes) have persecuted me without cause. Indeed! Wicked Bible is a 1632 edition in which the 7th commandment reads: Thou shalt commit adultery. The London printers were fined 300.

THE DEAD SEA SCROLLS.


o original Hebrew scriptures were in existence against which to compare errors of translation until the 1947 discovery of the Dead Sea scrolls in the Qumran caves. Before then, the earliest Hebrew manuscript was the Masoretic text of the Middle Ages, which added the vowels markings. So the oldest biblical manuscript was the Greek Septuagint. The Qumran scrolls were also copies and the only complete texts were Isaiah, Psalms, and Job. Nevertheless, some part of all books in Hebrew scripture, except Esther, were among the 555 Qumran scrolls. Thus, their discovery was extremely significant for two main reasons. 1. The Qumran Hebrew texts differed from the Masoretic Hebrew texts. The debate over which were more authentic was resolved in favor of the Dead Sea Scrolls, which were in closer alliance with the Greek Septuagint. Another explanation was that the Masoretic texts were Israel-centered, and thus politically motivated, whereas the Qumran texts were not. 2. Among the 202 distinct Qumran manuscripts found, 72 are of the Pentateuch29 were Deuteronomy, 17 Exodus, 15 Genesis, 13 Leviticus, and 8 Numbersbut no two copies are identical. Scholars explain this fluidity as insufficient controlled copying or scribal creative freedom. 37 Diversity, not uniformity, characterized these biblical manuscripts. Obviously, redactors felt free to improve the compositions they were copying. The multiple copies among the Dead Sea scrolls were proof of the lack of standardization among biblical texts.38

35 36

350 ce. Benets Readers Encyclopedia, third edition (New York NY: Harper & Row, 1987), pp. 97-99. 37 Vermes, Complete Dead Sea Scrolls, pg. 19. 38 Hershel Shanks, Understanding the Dead Sea Scrolls (New York NY: Vintage Books, 1993), pg. xxxvi.

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IN SUMMATION
rcheological discoveries and linguistic analyses radically changed the scholarly understanding of Hebrew scripture, in particular the books of Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers, which had been attributed to Moses during the years wandering in the desert, were actually brought from Babylon to Jerusalem. As a result, all of the earlier Hebrew scriptural material had to be reinterpreted as either historical, legendary, or mythological. Scholarly consensus is: Genesis Chapters 1 through half of Chapter 11 are mythological, which include the Seven Days of Creation, the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve, the serpent, Cain and Abel, Noah, Moses, and other well known biblical stories. Genesis 11 through 50 as well as Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, and Joshua are considered legendary, which means a mix of myth and history, and include the story of Abraham, the entry into Egypt, the exodus, the desert years, and the conquest of Canaan.

Historical parts of Hebrew scripture include the books of Judges, Samuel I & II, Kings I & II, and aspects of the united monarchy, Israel and Judah, and the Babylonian exile. The real revelation of sacred scripture is the true history of multiple sources, politics, translation, and cultural diversity among ancient manuscripts. We now know for sure that the Bible is not the literal word of God. However, it is a treasure trove of humanity.

Copyright, Sheila Harty, 2011


Sheila Harty is a published and award-winning writer with a BA and MA in Theology. Her major was in Catholicism, her minor in Islam, and her thesis in scriptural Judaism. Harty employed her theology degrees in the political arena as applied ethics, working for 20 years in Washington DC as a public interest policy advocate, including ten years with Ralph Nader. On sabbatical from Nader, she taught Business Ethics at University College Cork, Ireland. In DC, she also worked for U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark, former U.S. Surgeon General C. Everett Koop, the World Bank, the United Nations University, the Congressional Budget Office, and the American Assn for the Advancement of Science. She was a consultant with the Centre for Applied Studies in International Negotiations in Geneva, the National Adult Education Assn in Dublin, and the International Organization of Consumers Unions in The Hague. Her first book, Hucksters in the Classroom, won the 1980 George Orwell Award for Honesty & Clarity in Public Language. She moved to St. Augustine, Florida, in 1996 to care for her aging parents, where she also works as a freelance writer and editor. She can be reached by e-mail at s h e i l a h a r t y @ c o m c a s t . n e t . Her website is h t t p : w w w . s h e i l a - t harty.com