If you’ve elected to read the preceding selections in this manuscript, you will have noticed that I often refer to the first five books of the Bible as the Pentateuch. In Greek, the term simply means “five volumes.” Scholars often refer to Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy using this collective term because many of our predecessors erroneously assumed for over 2000 years that Moses personally wrote the books. Knowledge gained through modern scholarship and research, however, allows us to ascertain the logical impossibility of this scenario being true. More than likely, the Pentateuch is the work of several individuals, all of whom lived well after the stories they present and had varying oral traditions of how those events unfolded. Because of this societal concoction, the earliest recorded history of the Jews is afflicted with oft-erratic variance.
In order to consider an extraordinary event for inclusion in the modern canon of actual history, we must either have remaining evidence indicating what took place or obtain a record from a reliable eyewitness who documented the occurrence. We generally accept common daily events as fact because we know that these occasions are consistent and inconsequential in the grand scheme of human history. Extraordinary events on the level of those Moses allegedly recorded in the Pentateuch, on the other hand, should be thoroughly scrutinized before canonizing them as fact.
Two major biblical events that we should expect to be reasonably consistent with coexisting historical records and modern archaeological discoveries are the Exodus and Conquests. As you will see, however, these two hypothetical milestones have little, if any, substantiating support. If we are to ignore this contrary finding and just accept whatever the Bible says as truth, it isn’t fair to confine ourselves to the accounts of only one religion. Thus, we would have to accept any and all religious claims, regardless of their absurdity. To avoid such a logical disaster, we must reasonably pursue evidence for claims made by all beliefs in order to determine which, if any, has the most reliability as the correct religion. Christianity cannot simply trump other religions because it’s the one in which the most faith has been placed. Awarding any belief system with this favorable and prejudicial judgment should be an obvious act of intellectual dishonesty. Besides, if Christianity is the one true religion, it should have no trouble in avoiding claims that are disprovable by scientific and investigative scrutiny.
For our study of who initiated the history of the Jews, there’s no better place to start than the beginning. Thus, this chapter will discuss the following: how the Pentateuch came into existence, the standard reasons why Christians still maintain that Moses scribed it, why Christians desperately cling to traditional authorship claims, the contrast in writing styles among the multiple authors, and key pieces of information allowing scholars to debunk the traditional dates placed on the writings.
If Moses Didn’t Write The Books Of Moses…
Before we delve into much detail of how we know who wrote what in the early Old Testament, you should have an understanding of the different components combined to form the five books of the Pentateuch. This “document hypothesis” states that there were probably four authors and an editor responsible for the compilation. Since it’s currently impossible to determine their hypothetical identities, we commonly refer to them as J, E, P, D, and R for the reasons we’ll now discuss.
J received his name because he consistently uses JHWH as the unpronounceable name of God. Issues relating to humanity are the primary focus of his writing. J even extends this humanity-based focus by portraying a uniquely human interpretation of God. This author is compassionate and shows none of the bias against women discussed in Why Women And The Bible Don’t Mix. Seeing as how J wrote a complete historical record of the Israelites from a Judean perspective, he probably resided within the Southern Kingdom of Judea. Based on clues found within his text, historians typically place a 950-750 BCE date on the work, which is about 500-700 years following the death of Moses.
E, whose primary focus is morality, acquired his name because he consistently uses Elohim as the name of God. E commonly emphasized the second born sons of families because they were of historical and personal interest to the North for symbolic reasons. Since E left us with a complete account of the Israelites from the perspective of the Northern Kingdom of Israel, historians generally believe that this was his domicile. Thus, we already have two independent accounts of early Middle Eastern history. Since the split of Israel took place no earlier than 950 BCE, it’s exceedingly unlikely that such a contrasting influence would appear in his work before that time. Consequently, estimated dates for the E document range from 900-700 BCE.
P obtained his name because he was almost certainly a priest. He identifies Aaron, the first High Priest, as his spiritual ancestor. His manuscripts include rituals, laws, sins, chronologies, genealogies, and other subjects of definite interest to a priest. In sharp contrast to J, P doesn’t attribute any human qualities to God. The Hebrew terms equivalent to mercy, grace, and repentance don’t appear once in P’s work, while they’re plentiful in the compositions of J and E. Furthermore, P is often cold and harsh with his writing unlike the more pleasant E. These interpretations and attitudes are what we would expect from a traditional church leader. He doesn’t include any mythical details, such as the ludicrous claims of talking animals, likely interpolated into history by J and E as a result of popular urban legends. As he was seemingly aware of the books of prophecy, while J and E never gave this indication, P probably wrote his share much later around 700-650 BCE.
D received his name because he was the author of Deuteronomy. It’s a good possibility that D wrote many of the historical books as well. It’s an even better possibility that he wrote the book of Jeremiah, which contains several carbon copies of statements made in the book of Deuteronomy. If this is the case, the author could be Jeremiah’s scribe, Baruch, or Jeremiah himself. D most certainly lived in Israel during a very spiritual era, the same era in which the likely author claimed to have discovered the book. Evidence for the document hypothesis indicates that the person compiling the Pentateuch tacked the author’s work onto the end of the compilation. Thus, we would expect it to have been created after, not in concurrent conflict with, the other three circulating versions of Jewish history. It then follows that the author probably finished it shortly before its “discovery” in 622 BCE.
We designate the individual responsible for combining the four accounts into one collection as R because he’s the redactor (editor). The process finally came to a conclusion some time around 500-434 BCE, but may have begun as early as the Babylonian Exile of 587-539 BCE. R also adds bits and pieces of commentary to make necessary transitions between the passages. The scholarly community consensually believes this redactor is the biblical priest Ezra.
To illustrate the document hypothesis, we’ll take a detailed look at the first eight chapters of Genesis. You may find it helpful to locate and follow along in a Bible before proceeding further.
One creation story scribed by P appears from Genesis 1:1-2:3. Notice that the first half of 2:4 doesn’t maintain the flow and seems to segue into the second creation account found in 2:4-2:25. That’s likely the redactor making a transition between P’s and J’s creation stories. J continues to the end of the fourth chapter with some recollections of stories centered on Adam and his children. Chapter 5 then hastily jumps in with some genealogy from P or R, but verse 29, written by J, seems recklessly tossed into the mix.
At the commencement of chapter six, J regains control and supplies a few verses set in the time immediately prior to Noah’s flood. This account abruptly stops following 6:8, and P’s story of Noah begins with his lineage. Furthermore, this section by P is an obvious repetition of the days before the flood, provided earlier in the chapter by J. Genesis 7:1 seems to pick right back up where J left off at 6:8. Genesis 7:6, written by P, appears haphazardly thrown in because it interrupts a cohesive story told by J. Verses 7:7, 7:10, 7:12, 7:17-20, and 7:22-23 tell one full story of the flood (J) while 7:8-9, 7:11, 7:13-16, 7:21, and 7:24 tell another (P). In chapter eight, J likely recorded verses 2, 3, 6, 8-12, the last part of 13, and 20-22, while the remaining verses stand alone as another complete story by the author P. If you happen to be carefully reading the texts in their native Hebrew language, you may even notice the contrasting writing styles of the two authors beginning to emerge.
How And Why Was The Pentateuch Combined?
This part, we cannot say for certain. It’s speculated that a number of Israelites fled south into Judea with the E document in hand when the Assyrians conquered the Northern Kingdom in 722 BCE. Consequently, the J document would now coexist with the E document in this society prior to their combination. Around this time, P likely became a widespread alternative priestly version of the J and E records. With these three variant interpretations, no doubt would come arguing factions. R then saw the need, or perhaps was elected, to combine the contrasting accounts into a single cohesive document agreeable to all parties. Not wishing to eliminate any essential parts of the respective documents, R would then combine the contrasting stories into one quasi-harmonious account and do the best he could to avoid contradictions, inconsistencies, and repetitions. Because the D document doesn’t step on the toes of the other three histories, the redactor likely tacked Deuteronomy onto the end for this reason. By 434 BCE, the redactor had certainly compiled the modern version of the Pentateuch.
There’s nothing novel about forming multiple author theories for the Moses biography. The first known hypothesis was proposed nearly a thousand years ago when it was discovered that a list of kings in the Pentateuch included some who apparently reigned following Moses’ death. Although the suggestion that Moses didn’t write this passage seems to bathe in common sense, the churches of the Middle Ages weren’t exactly known for embracing such heretical theories. Centuries later, biblical scholars began to propose that prophets and editors may have had limited involvement in the compilation. Scholars fortunate enough to live during the age of Enlightenment in the eighteenth century concluded that different authors recorded the passages conspicuously appearing twice because one writer would use the name JHWH and the other would use the name Elohim when referring to the same god. Triplet passages, the beginning of the P discovery, were soon uncovered in the years to come. Later still, historians determined Deuteronomy has a style distinct from the ones found in the four preceding books. Presently, we have a four author and one editor hypothesis. This will no doubt undergo alteration as well if subsequent research provides further evidence relevant to the authorship issue. On the other hand, regardless of what evidence researchers discover, the Christian community may indefinitely hold onto a Moses authorship.
While we’re certainly not fully able to explain the origins of the Old Testament with 100% accuracy, we can conclude with great certainty that the Pentateuch is a set of conflicting passages scribed 500-3500 years after the events it purports. Ask yourself how much oral tradition can change in a few years; then consider the subsequent alteration of details after 3500 years. Of course, this proposal assumes that an omniscient deity offered no input to this particular set of writers. Since we should be unanimous in deciding that a “wonderful” and “loving” God would have no part in the orders of rape, slavery, and the various other acts of extreme brutality contained within the Old Testament, we should also decide that these hundredth-hand stories were highly unlikely to be scientifically or historically accurate. Similarly, we see the inclusion of ridiculous fallacies in the form of Adam and Noah working unpaid overtime at discrediting their own reliability. Furthermore, we have upcoming archaeological evidence indicating that the Exodus and Conquests didn’t unfold the way they were recorded, if at all. Thus, we can certainly challenge the existence, or at least question the true nature, of the people on whom the authors based these stories.
There’s ample reason why Christians feel the absolute necessity for Moses to have been the sole author of the Pentateuch. First, we have inclusions of several passages indicating Moses did a lot of the writing. For example, “And it came to pass, when Moses had made an end of writing the words of this law in a book…” (Deuteronomy 31:24). There are also several biblical passages outside the Pentateuch insinuating that Moses was responsible for its compilation. Paul demonstrated his conviction that Moses was an author when he said, “For Moses describeth the righteousness which is of the law” (Romans 10:5). Even Jesus implies that Moses wrote the books: “All things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses” (Luke 24:44). However, there’s no passage in the Pentateuch directly implicating Moses as the one and only author of the present compilation. I also fail to recognize any quotes concretely indicating that the New Testament characters were certain of Moses’ solitary authorship. The contemporaneous belief of the New Testament authors may have very well been that Moses only provided a foundation for the Old Testament writings.
For the past 2000 years, the church has merely gone on assumptions when making the attribution of the Pentateuch to Moses. In fact, there wouldn’t be any additional errors in the Bible if someone completely debunked the traditional hypothesis. The importance of the authorship question lies with determining the credibility and reliability of the authors, not with demonstrating an additional biblical mistake.
Evidence Clearly Pointing Away From Moses
The best evidence we have supporting the position that Moses didn’t write the entire Pentateuch is the description of his death and burial in the last chapter of Deuteronomy. Almost all Christians will make this small concession by admitting that Joshua may have finished the works, but some actually believe that God told Moses what to write beforehand. Nevertheless, the possibility of a second author for the final chapter isn’t exactly destructive to the traditional author hypothesis. The more critical discoveries arise from the widespread presence of contradictions and inconsistencies contained within repetitions of stories, such as the creation and flood. A single author would have known better than to write a certain passage, only to contradict it a few sentences later. However, these variations are, indeed, present and lead us to believe that the traditional single author hypothesis is completely discountable. Examples of these contradictions can be found in the next chapter.
The inclusion of city names and tribes yet to exist at the time of Moses’ death, approximately 1450 BCE, is equally devastating to the traditional Mosaic authorship claim. Genesis 11:31 says that the Chaldees lived in the city of Ur during the life of Abraham, but historical records tell us that the Chaldees didn’t even exist as a tribe until well after Moses was dead. In addition, they didn’t become a prominent enough group to occupy a city until the sixth century BCE.
Genesis 14:14 mentions the city of Dan, but the city didn’t acquire this name until it was seized one thousand years later via conquest. Genesis 37:25 mentions traders with spicery, balm, and myrrh, but these weren’t the primary trade products of the region until the eighth century BCE. Isaac visits King Abimelech of Gerar in Genesis 26:1, but Gerar didn’t exist until after Isaac’s death and wouldn’t have been powerful enough to require a King until the eighth century BCE. Genesis 36:31 says that there were “kings that reigned in the land of Edom,” but there’s no extrabiblical record of Kings in Edom until the eighth century BCE. Exodus 13:17 details Moses’ apprehension toward entering the land of the Philistines in Canaan, but there’s zero evidence that indicates the Philistines occupied Canaan until the thirteenth century BCE. In addition, they couldn’t have sufficiently organized in threatening numbers until a few hundred years later.
Moses references Palestine in Exodus 15:14, the only known mention of that name for hundreds of years. In Deuteronomy 3:11, Moses also mentions the city of Rabbath and Og’s location within the city, but no one outside of Rabbath could have held this information until it was conquered hundreds of years later. Jacob is called a wandering Aramean in Deuteronomy 26:5, but the Arameans didn’t have contact with the Israelites until the ninth century BCE. Some particular names mentioned in Genesis 14 and 25 (Chedorlaomer, Kadesh, Sheba, Tema, Nebaioth, and Adbeel) are consistent with names of people recorded by the Assyrians as living during the sixth through eighth centuries BCE, not a thousand years prior. The writers never provide the names of Egyptian Pharaohs even though Moses would have readily known this bit of information.
The Pentateuch authors claim that many of the leading Genesis characters, such as Abraham, Jacob, and Joseph, rode camels. However, there’s no archaeological evidence indicating that anyone domesticated these animals earlier than 1200 BCE. Again, this was hundreds or thousands of years after the deaths of these alleged biblical camel riders. Furthermore, no known person trained camels to carry people and other heavy loads until many years later.
Someone making these aforementioned claims in 1500 BCE would have had no ability to appreciate this futuristic information and no reason to present the information in a fashion identifiable only to a specific group of people living in a specific region during an arbitrary future time period. On the other hand, someone in 500 BCE would have had access to this information but lacked a way to know that the stories presented were historically invalid. Not only do these facts indicate a more recent authorship, they also suggest fabrications or alterations of actual events. Finally, many of the passages state that certain aspects of the Hebrew society are still the same “unto this day” (e.g. Genesis 26:33). This wording greatly implies that the complete record was finished well after the purported events took place.
The Exodus: Timeline Inconsistencies
Now let’s turn to the particular account of the Exodus and consider the possibility of such a magnificent event taking place. First, we should recognize the plethora of peculiarities concerning the approximate time that the authors say the enslavement and subsequent Exodus took place. We arrive at the aforementioned 1500 BCE estimate for the Exodus because the three different chronologies used to date it differ by about 150 years but tend to center around the designated 1500 BCE date. We commonly use the most accepted and latest possible date of 1447 BCE because it’s the easiest to derive.
1 Kings 6:1 says that Solomon’s fourth year as ruler was concurrent with the 480th anniversary of the Exodus. Given that Solomon began his first year of rule in 970 BCE, his fourth year as ruler would have been in 967 BCE. Consequently, the Exodus must have taken place 480 years prior in 1447 BCE. Establishing the exact date isn’t as important as obtaining a period to which the events must be bound in order to compare it to established historical events.
According to the Bible, the Israelite slaves were used to build the Egyptian cities of Pithom and Raamses (Exodus 1:11). Since the Exodus took place no later than 1447 BCE, the Israelites would have at least had to start construction on Raamses by that time in order for the story to remain reliable. In a great setback to Christian apologists, there wasn’t even a Pharaoh named Raamses until 1320 BCE, 127 years after the Exodus. For an additional dagger in the heart of biblical inerrancy, consider Egypt’s own records. These archaeological findings state that Egypt’s own people built the city and not until it came via order of Raamses II who reigned from 1279-1213 BCE. A Hebrew writing a story of his origins several hundred years after all these events had long played out would have had no way of determining when Raamses was constructed without committing to a thorough investigation of Egypt’s historical records. Needless to say, the author didn’t have such access and made a poor guess on when the city was actually built.
The Exodus: A Valid Counterargument From Silence
Upon the Israelites’ alleged escape from their forced construction duties, Moses parts the Red Sea so that they can cross and escape from the pursuing Egyptians (Exodus 14). This was supposed to be the last that Egypt would see of them, and it was as far as the Bible is concerned. Moses seemingly marches his people straight through the other Egyptian regions without contest because the author was no doubt ignorant of the soldiers stationed in the surrounding cities. As you might have subsequently guessed, there are no Egyptian reports of such a massive group crossing these outposts.
The story then purports Moses leading the Israelites into the vast wilderness for forty years of aimless wandering. According to the biblical account, Moses freed 600,000 men in addition to the safely presumed multitude of women and children. If we assume only one wife for each man and only one child for every other couple, which is a very low estimate, there’s a total of one and a half million escapees in addition to the “mixed multitude…of flocks, and herds, even very much cattle” (Exodus 12:37-41). After forty years, the count probably swelled to three million, a number in agreement with many religious Jewish sources.
Since we have millions of mouths to contend with, let’s look at the problem of finding something to feed them. We’ll assume that the Israelites were always proximate to a large water source unless stated otherwise. An average individual requires at least a half pound of food per day to meet typical nourishment requirements. In order to just barely survive, we’ll assume that the Israelites had half that amount over the course of forty years. If each person ate a quarter pound of food every twenty-four hours, the entire camp would need 375 tons of sustenance every day. While we know that they primarily survived off manna, a dried plant material (Numbers 11:6-9), it’s ludicrous to believe that they could obtain this much nourishment day after day without supernatural intervention. From what we’ve learned about this god’s true lack of interaction with the people on earth, such unsubstantiated circumstances were highly unlikely to have ever taken place.
Considering that the Bible provides some precise locations of the events surrounding the desert journey, archaeological evidence of three million people wandering around in a confined area for forty years shouldn’t be too difficult to locate. In fact, we know that the Israelites were in Kadesh-barnea for most of their long journey (Deuteronomy 1:19). However, not one piece of evidence of an Israeli encampment or occupancy has ever arisen from the multitude of undertaken excavations. In contrast, civilizations with populations less than three million over their entire time of existence have left behind considerable amounts of remains that inform us of their cultural facets. Furthermore, archaeologists weren’t necessarily looking for any evidence from these people; they casually stumbled upon the initial discoveries due to the sufficient number of artifacts large groups tend to leave behind. Asserting that unfound archaeological evidence exists for an Exodus is an absurdly difficult position to defend.
Similarly, we have no evidence for three million people invading the land of Canaan and destroying the inhabitants’ possessions forty years after the Exodus (Numbers 33:50-54). Archaeological findings in the form of bodies, waste products, documents, and clothing tell us that the population of Canaan was never greater than 100,000. Thus, we can reasonably dismiss the possibility of a group in excess of one million ever conquering and inhabiting the region.
Fortunately, the Egyptians were much less fond of including hyperbole in their historical records. Of the thousands of fourteenth century BCE Egyptian records uncovered at el-Amarna and Boghazkoy detailing the governments, armies, religions, trade routes, and everyday lives of the people living in the region, none pay any respect to the millions of Israelites allegedly moving about like nomads in Kadesh-barnea. In fact, we don’t posses a single mention of Israel made prior to the creation of the 1207 BCE Merneptah Stele. The inscriptions on this essential historical artifact inform us that Pharaoh Merneptah had recently entered Canaan and easily defeated the Israelites. Curiously, just seventy-eight years earlier, Pharaoh Raamses recorded his army as numbering only 37,000. Although Egypt is widely acknowledged to have been the most powerful country in the world at that time, how could an army the size of a small city go on the offensive and defeat three million inhabitants in a region with nearly one million men of fighting age? If Merneptah did defeat the enormous Israeli army, why didn’t he acknowledge such a remarkable, unrivaled victory in his writings, and why does the Bible neglect to mention this humiliating defeat?
The Exodus: Bogus Solutions
Because attempts to justify the number of Israelites have consistently fallen flat, apologists have often sought a way around this perplexity. Sound familiar? The Hebrew word used to describe thousands is eleph. In a couple of the five hundred or so instances in which the Old Testament authors utilize the term, it meant an army or clan. If this was one of those highly unusual cases, apologists could claim that Moses freed six hundred families instead of six hundred thousand men. This gives us roughly 1500 people escaping from Egypt. Even if we allow the convenience of the word just happening to mean something else at the whim of the apologist, the tale still has unanswered problems. The archaeological evidence and Egyptian historical records for this smaller group of people are still absent. More importantly, there are no longer enough of them to invade and take the land of Canaan. When one difficulty is resolved, another takes its place.
As a way of solving the Egyptian silence, Bible defenders have proposed that the records did include the Israelites’ stay in their country. A writer named Manetho of the third century BCE wrote that, according to some mythical books, a group of people known as the Hyksos invaded Egyptian land and took over the leadership for five hundred years before Pharaoh Ahmose ejected them in 1570 BCE. Some apologists looking for any loophole claim that the Hyksos are a reference to the Israelites. However, several reasons why this isn’t the case should already be painfully obvious. The dates are way off; the Israelites didn’t invade Egypt; they didn’t stay five hundred years; and Ahmose didn’t run them off. While the stories are in no way congruent, the Egyptian tale may help explain the provenience of the biblical legend.
Another difficult aspect of the accord for an apologist to defend would be the Israelites’ total lack of faith in their god’s abilities. After God frees his people from captivity and performs all the plague miracles to ensure their freedom, they still don’t trust him. Since they think that they’re going to die when the Pharaoh decides to chase after them, they complain about the method used to release them from Egyptian custody. Consequently, God has Moses part the sea in order for them to cross and lure the Egyptians into their watery graves. Just a few days later, they complain about an onset of dehydration. Consequently, God provides them with water. Forty days following that incident, the people complain about having no meat. Consequently, God sends them a multitude of quail. A while later, the Israelites once again think that they’re going to dehydrate even though God provided them with water on the previous occasion. Consequently, God provides them with water once again. When the people complain again about not having any meat, the divinely delivered quail fly in once more. Later still, people start complaining about having no land to call their own. When God is about to provide them with some land, they doubt that they can defeat the multitude of inhabitants to obtain it. Instead, they all desire to return to Egypt as slaves rather than fighting and dying in the wilderness.
The Israelites obviously have zero faith in God even though he performs unbelievable miracles for them on a consistent basis. Why, then, are they so skeptical of a god who has provided them with so many blessings in the past? Why would they later turn their backs on such a powerful confederate? It doesn’t make any sense for the Israelites to be so thoroughly convinced that they were going to die when the supernatural interventions of God save them time after time after time. This is another great reason why the story is probably an exceedingly ridiculous fable with an intended moral, much like the repeated enslavement story discussed in the previous chapter.
As I mentioned in The Flat Earth Society, God grants Joshua’s request to make the sun cease its motion so that he can defeat his enemies in the daylight. Since no society with astronomers recorded this unique event, the ball really started to roll on determining the legitimacy of events claimed in the conquest accounts of the Pentateuch and historical books. Subsequent thorough scientific analyses turn up some very interesting facts relevant to these biblical endeavors.
The size of the army Joshua used to conquer his enemies is astonishing even by today’s standards. As I alluded to earlier, the greatest nations of the era had no more than 50,000 soldiers serving simultaneously. The military that Joshua claims to be under his command, however, even outnumbers the current United States Army. While there was an astounding amount of soldiers numbering in the hundreds of thousands during Joshua’s conquests, there were over one and a half million enlisted by the time David was King. Such an outlandishly sized army could have easily conquered the entire ancient world unopposed if the enlisted men so desired. However, there’s no contemporaneous record of an existing force even a tenth of that size. In addition, the population problem arises once again because the Israelites could not have possibly grown to this size over such a short amount of time when you necessarily take the subpar living conditions of the era into consideration.
The consensus of archaeological findings, such as the nearly exhaustive collection of proposals reviewed by William Stiebing in 1989, points away from Moses or Joshua ever conquering the cities claimed by the Bible. We know that the conquests directed by Moses had to have taken place during the time that he and Joshua lived concurrently (approximately 1550-1450 BCE), while the conquests following the Pentateuch must have taken place between Moses’ death and the lifetimes of his various successors (approximately 1450-1200 BCE). Of the four cities that the Israelites take via force in Numbers 21 (Arad, Hormah, Heshbon, and Dibon), none exhibit any clear evidence that they were occupied during the required period. Areor’s remnants, another city claimed to have been conquered while Moses was still alive, offer no credence to the claim that the city was occupied any earlier than two hundred years following the alleged victory (Deuteronomy 2:36).
Although Joshua’s most famous battle takes place in Jericho long after the death of Moses, there’s overwhelming archaeological evidence that suggests the city was destroyed before Moses would have even been born (Joshua 6). Likewise, impartial archaeologists aren’t ready to conclude that the cities of Ai, Gibeon, and Hebron had occupants at the same time that this so-called historical book claims they were destroyed (Joshua 7, 9, and 10, respectively).
Occupational eras of the remaining cities will vary according to different sources, possibly putting their demise around the time of Joshua’s conquests. However, the fallacies presented about the other cities demonstrate the need to seriously question the Bible when attempting to place an accurate date on those remaining towns. Even if future findings confirm the dates provided by the Bible, there’s no evidence that any “Joshua” was doing all the conquering.
Unless there’s compelling evidence to the contrary, we should always give reliability and precedence to correspondence written at the time of the event rather than propagandistic records compiled hundreds of years afterwards. You should realize by now that the Bible is anything but compelling evidence. The blatant signs of a more modern authorship, the lack of documented eyewitnesses, and the obvious embellishments clearly indicate that we should take the aforementioned accounts with a handful of salt.
The Significance Of Moses’ Absence
Since Moses didn’t write the outlandish stories found within the Pentateuch, we must consider the fact we only know of his existence through oral tradition a millennium in the making. With this in mind, could he have been a legend based on a real person? Is it possible that he’s a complete work of fiction?
The Law of Moses, supposedly handed down by God himself in Exodus, is probably patterned after the Code of Hammurabi, which was written well before 2000 BCE. This date places the code’s origins several centuries prior to Moses’ trek up Mt. Sinai. Both codes of conduct contain similar guidelines along with similar punishments in lieu of following the established rules (murder, theft, perjury, adultery, etc.) Simply put, several moral codes existed in the Middle East prior to these unoriginal directions from Moses.
Aspects of Moses’ birth are likely to be a copy of King Sargon of Agade’s early years as well. Like Moses, Sargon was also said to have been placed into a basket on a river as a baby. The important difference is that Sargon’s story was purported a thousand years prior to the same affair Moses allegedly endured as a child (Exodus 2). Is it possible that the original tellers of the story could have based the legend of Moses on this historical figure? Minor details like these add up to further challenge the legitimacy of Moses’ existence, and we should not honestly dismiss such parallels as mere coincidences.
Implications Of A Fabricated History
If no “Moses” or any other individual from the contemporaneous era wrote anything in the Pentateuch, how do we really know that God carried out and ordered all the monstrous deeds preserved in those books? We can’t be certain of the records for two simple reasons: the stories are utterly ridiculous, and we can scarcely consider hundredth-hand accounts to be reliable. That’s why we must analyze the veracity of even the simplest of claims made in the books of Moses to render a verdict on their proper place in history.
The truth is that Moses couldn’t have realistically written the books, and we have no reason to believe that he was an actual historical figure. Because the majority of the Old Testament was critically inaccurate in its detail, we cannot conclude that the events contained within are factual and accurate without further evidence. Since the required evidence is completely absent, we should only conclude that the books from Genesis to Job are mythological or greatly exaggerated legends.
The balance of the Old Testament is nothing but songs and prophecies of a god no longer in contact with anyone but a handful of prophets who, as we will see in A Different Future, also display a total lack of credibility. By the time the Israelites had a compiled history of their origins, no one ever claims that God had such liberal verbal and visual contact with anyone. All of a sudden, God seemingly ceases to exist from the observable world, a world in which no supernatural events take place. No known Hebrew authors make extraordinary claims in the multi-century span between the documentation of these events and the beginning of the Common Era. In fact, the Israelites existed pretty much as we do now: living normal lives and never recording any verifiably miraculous acts.
How It Came To Be
One man under the divine inspiration of God didn’t write the Pentateuch; it was the product of several different perspectives of a common legacy passed down by fallible oral tradition for hundreds of years. When we analyze the texts, we clearly observe the Pentateuch as a convolution of several works from different authors with interpolated segues to signal subject transitions. Considering these observations, we cannot possibly anticipate the Pentateuch to be 100% accurate in its detail.
Following the Assyrian invasion and Babylonian Exile, conditions were certainly indicative of a rising necessity for a cohesive religious society. Perhaps these tales arose from the necessity to instill fear into the hearts of Israel’s stronger enemies. Consequently, it would be very likely that these bits of propaganda were intended to be nothing more than methods of keeping superstitious enemies at bay so that such forces wouldn’t overrun the demonstrably inferior and ill-equipped Israelites.
Exaggerated oral traditions and urban legends during this highly superstitious era no doubt played a large role in forming the first draft of the Old Testament. The seemingly countless number of horrible acts carried out by God, recorded in the Old Testament, and discussed in the previous three chapters of this book weren’t the result of angry divine interactions. Instead, these tales of unfathomably enormous armies and insanely angry deities were undoubtedly the product of a vivid human imagination. Thus, we cannot reasonably attribute the earliest writings of the Bible to an omniscient deity, much less the “wonderful” and “loving” Christian god. In short, the historical account left by the Hebrews is a problematic report filled with wild, unsubstantiated, ridiculous, and extraordinary claims without a shred of evidence to back it up.
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