Old Testament- False Dialectic-- Oh my


Well-Known Member
It's not so easy to see how a major re-invention of this Hebrew literature by Alexandrian Greeks of the 3rd century BCE, could have served any geopolitical purpose.
Speaking of Alexandrian Greeks with a geopolitical purpose, here is a view taken by Charles N. Pope, in his "Alexander the Great, Beyond the Divide", although he is talking about the New Testament and histories of Alexander the Great here: "Consequently, it follows that the Gospels were produced by the royal “literary factory.” And Jesus of the Gospels, like Alexander the Great, was a messianic figure by virtue of being an actual royal person himself. Jesus, and the royal court of his time, was heir in unbroken descent from the royal houses of the previous Greek and Persian Periods. In other words, those responsible for the New Testament were the direct successors of Alexander and his court. The sponsors of Alexander’s histories were in turn the direct successors of Xerxes and Cyrus the Great of Persia before them. The New Testament reflects the nature of the royal court as a precedent-based culture in the extreme. Current actions and relationships had to be legitimized by carefully and completely replicating what had gone before. The New Testament also reflects the continuity that existed from one empire to the next as the “scarlet thread” of kingship passed (by literal genetic inheritance) between the rulers of each successive empire. A single royal family was “all things to all people” and asserted their primacy over all nations and religions by assuming regional kingly and priestly identities."


Well-Known Member
I wonder how hard it is to pay a Costa Rican doctor to certify that you died, and of a heart issue?
Just thought of this as an observation, not sure if there is another thread that deals with this, but in Peter Levenda's "Ratline", the escaped Adolf Hitler is supposed to have had a fatal heart attack in Indonesia in 1970, after converting to Islam.

Richard Stanley

Well-Known Member
In Chapter 3 of his Living in Truth, Charles Pope references a book by Michael Astour, Hellenosemitica, which builds upon the work of Astour's mentor, Cyrus H. Gordon, and in line with what Moses Hadas wrote in his classic Hellenistic Culture. With these older scholars namely that the development of Greek and Phoenician/Canaanite and Hebrew cultures were tightly interwound ... and/or with a common source or sources, e.g. Egyptian and Mesopotamian. And as discussed in the focus of this thread and the associated blog posts, that the Greek and Hebrew were formed as inverted mirror images, the 'separating' cultural function of the Mosaic laws.

The book seems hard to get, but is available at Scribd with a membership: https://www.scribd.com/document/49454115/HellenoSemitica-Michael-C-Astour


Jerry Russell

Staff member
Hello Sarge!

Gmirkin's work has inspired a new Wikipedia page, which in turn provides some critical analysis. The first source cited by the Wikipedia editors is a review by John Van Seters, which unfortunately is hidden behind a paywall (access available for $51 through JSTOR). Rather than making that investment, I will simply quote from the Wikipedia article:

John Van Seters criticized Gmirkin's work in a 2007 book review, arguing that Berossus and Genesis engages in a straw man fallacy by attacking the documentary hypothesis without seriously addressing more recent theories of Pentateuchal origins. He also alleges that Gmirkin selectively points to parallels between Genesis and Berossus, and Exodus and Manetho, while ignoring major dissimilarities between the accounts.[9] Finally, Van Seters points out that Gmirkin does not seriously consider the numerous allusions to the Genesis and Exodus narratives in the rest of the Hebrew Bible, including in texts that are generally dated much earlier than his proposed dating of the Pentateuch.[10] Gmirkin, by contrast, holds that those parts of the Hebrew Bible that allude to Genesis and Exodus must be dated later than is commonly assumed.[11]
Another review of Gmikin's 2007 book, by Joyce Rilett Wood, is posted in its entirety at the Journal of Hebrew Scriptures. Regarding the derivation of Genesis 1-11 from Berossus, Wood thinks that it's far more likely that both Berossus and Genesis were sourced from much older Mesopotamian sources. Wood provides some information which seems somewhat supportive of Gmirkin's argument:

The Church fathers suggested dependence of Berossus on Genesis 1-11, but Hellenistic scholars (e.g. Schnabel, Burstein) think that a number of references are not what Berossus wrote himself but later interpolations by Jewish writers to make a reading conform to Genesis (pp. 96-97). For this reason most references are deleted from modern translations of his text (Burstein, The Babyloniaca of Berossus, 1978, p. 14, note 11). Gmirkin, however, talks about “strong parallels” between Berossus and Genesis, arguing that Genesis 1-11 borrowed from Berossus (p. 91).
But, she continues...

Berossus wrote Babyloniaca to instruct Greco-Macedonian rulers about Babylon and its cultural history (Burstein, pp. 5-6, 13). Not surprisingly, no one before Gmirkin has ever supposed that Berossus is the direct source for the authors of Genesis 1-11, especially since the hypothesis implies that learned Jews of the third century BCE chose an inferior literary work on Babylonian history, written in poor Greek (Burstein, p. 9), as the foundation for the introduction of their national history.
Gmirkin rightly stresses the indebtedness of Genesis 1-11 to Mesopotamian sources (p. 135), but he is unable to show that Berossus has “better parallels” to Genesis “than the older cuneiform sources” (p. 136).

Wood then focuses her discussion on the Enuma Elish, the Babylonian Epic of Creation. Gmirkin argues that Berossus's re-telling of this story contains distinctive elements that are absent in the original Enuma Elish, but Wood says that these differences are trivial and could easily have been independently extrapolated by Berossus and the Hebrews, or could have come independently from some other Babylonian source. Wood also notes that there are several parallels between the Enuma Elish and Genesis that go unmentioned in Berossus. Gmirkin notes that the order of stars, moon and sun is reversed between Enuma Elish and Genesis, while Wood argues that this reversal is in itself a meaningful correlation. Finally, Wood notes that the Genesis version of the story is intertwined with the story of the Serpent from Gilgamesh, which she thinks is a far better parallel than Berossus's "half-fish-half-human monster" Oannes.

Wood argues that the most important problem with the argument that Manetho was the source of the Moses story, is that we only know Manetho's text through Josephus. Thus, Manetho's original writing could easily have been distorted by Jewish scholarship in the process of being transmitted via Josephus. Wood concludes:

In sum, Gmirkin's book adds to our knowledge of the third century BCE but does little to increase our understanding of the Bible. Yet this volume is an intriguing read because it challenges us at every turn to think about source-critical questions and to ask about the direction of literary dependence.
Which is a great segue to my own view, that if one text is a seriously intended spiritual or religious allegory, and another text appears to be a related satirical or humorous riposte, it is far more likely that the satire is dependent on the scriptural hagiography, rather than the other way around. The Hebrew Bible describes Moses as shining brightly (which is, perhaps, a thinly veiled statement that Moses was more "white" than his followers) while Manetho depicts him with leprosy, which seems to be a satirical attack. Similarly I argue that the Lunatic Jesus in Josephus is far more likely to be a satire of Biblical Jesus, than that the New Testament authors would base their Jesus on such a fop.

Wikipedia also discusses a review of Gmirkin's newer book, "Plato and the Creation of the Hebrew Bible", by Stephanie Anthonioz. A version of this review was posted to bibleinterp.arizona.edu.

Anthonioz says that her review is intended to "highlight the immense interest and also the weaknesses of the book." Among the weaknesses she mentions are: that the framework of an authorship team working to write the Pentateuch in Alexandria ca. 270 BCE is "no less hypothetical and lacking historical proof" than the framework Gmirkin criticises; that there is nothing in the Hellenistic tradition to justify "the biblical priestly caste and its power"; that Gmirkin essentially ignores past scholarship on Biblical authorship, "as if the studies that have been done for centuries no longer deserve the least attention" (which goes considerably farther than Van Seter's complaint about Gmirkin's earlier book, that it focused on the "straw man" of the documentary hypothesis); and that "parallelism is not a sufficient evidence of borrowing".

Furthermore, Anthonioz points out that linguistic borrowing is clearly in the direction of Hebraisms introduced into Greek, rather than any Greek words or idioms introduced into the Hebrew. In a remarkable understatement, Anthonioz says this issue "attenuates... the strength of the theory of the author." And if that's not enough to seal the case, she also complains that Judaism itself was splitting into multiple identities at the very time when Gmirkin claims that this unifying national literature was being created for the first time. She concludes:

Indeed, the intuition that the Pentateuch makes better sense in light of Athenian sources is quite convincing in my eyes, but these influences may have begun earlier and the Persian Achaemenid period seems a perfect historical context as the empire was confronted repeatedly and the Levant stood at the cross roads of Greece to many routes from the eastern to the western frontiers and the southern to the northern ones.[2]
As a final word, it is clear that the detailed comparisons between the Greek and Biblical systems of legislation are of immense value and definitely advance comparative studies on this subject. It is now up to those who will look into these questions to draw all the historical fruit of this work, and show what influences belong to which corpus and how Greek history and sources can illuminate the history of the biblical text in its depth without giving up its Near Eastern influences.
Which of course is consistent with this website's long-held position, that the Pentateuch was most likely compiled in the post-exilic era of Persian rule, based on earlier texts.

I would be remiss if I didn't mention Richard's long-standing view (following Cyrus Gordon) that the Hebrews and Greeks are linked in ancient legend as the Danaans, aka the Danites, of the Biblical tribe of Dan.

But on the other hand, I am also obliged to point out that Gmirkin himself replied to Anthonioz's review at the Bible and Interpretation site.

In this reply, Gmirkin points out that the Septuagint itself is documented in "two unimpeachable historical sources: the manuscript tag on copies of the Septuagint housed in the Great Library of Alexandria, and the entry found in the library catalog (the Pinakes or “List”) created for the Great Library by Callimachus (ca. 275-240 bce), the inventor of library science at Alexandria." This largely misses Anthonioz's point, that there is absolutely no historical evidence that these Septuagint translators were also tasked with writing the Hebrew Old Testament. Thus, Gmirkin's authorship team is just as much a free-floating hypothesis as any other.

Gmirkin continues to make an argument that "according to the discipline of network analysis theory", the transmission of Plato's ideas could not have been communicated directly to Jerusalem by any likely path during the Persian era. Again, I think this ignores Anthonioz's point that no direct transmission was necessary, since both the Hebrew and Greek legal systems could have been based on earlier legal systems such as the Hammurabic code, or Egyptian law.

Gmirkin then presents this very interesting argument:

...there is no objective external evidence for Pentateuchal writings in pre-Hellenistic times. Quite the contrary, the Elephantine papyri of ca. 450-400 bce give provide strong contemporary evidence for the character of Judaism as practiced late into the Persian Era. These archives of letters (and ostraca) from the Jewish military colony of Elephantine, an Egyptian southern border fortress located just below the First Cataract of the Nile, attest to a thriving Judaism in Egypt with their own temple but no Aaronic priesthood, a Judaism without scriptures, a Judaism which accommodated polytheism, a Judaism with no knowledge of Abraham, Moses, or any other figure known from the Pentateuch or Hebrew Bible (as shown by the absence of these famous figures from the many Jewish names found in the archives). The Jews of Elephantine celebrated a purely agricultural Passover and Days of Unleavened Bread (TAD A4.1) with no associated traditions regarding Moses or Exodus. They possessed a seven day week, but no sabbath of rest, as shown by one ostraca that enjoined an employee to offload a boat full of vegetables on the sabbath on pain of death (TAD D7.16.1-5). These Jews deferred to the authority of Jewish priests from Jerusalem, with whom they consulted on religious matters, but biblical writings never come into play: only what Wellhausen called Oral Torah, authoritative priestly rulings that did not involve written legal codes. The Samarian papyri of Wadi Daliyeh, dating from ca. 375 to 335 bce, at the dawn of the Hellenistic Era, give a similar, though more limited picture: famous names from the Pentateuch are similarly absent. Contrast with the heavy representation of Pentateuchal names in the second century inscriptions from Mount Gerizim or the book of 1 Maccabees, during later times when the biblical text was mined for children’s names. It seems apparent that Judaism prior to the Hellenistic Era, what I would describe as pre-biblical Judaism, was unacquainted with authoritative Mosaic writings or written laws.
The problem of the Samarian papyri, and also (to a lesser extent) the Elephantine papyri, is treated in this recent paper by Jan Dusek, whose hypothesis is that "...at the end of the Persian period, in the province of Samaria, the text of the Pentateuch did not yet have the status of a text accessible to the “ordinary” members of the Yahwistic community...".

This is rather bizarre!! If indeed the narrative of the Patriarchs and the Exodus existed during the age of the Achaemenid Persians, then how could this be kept secret from the rabble of commoners in Samaria and Elephantine? This implies a very high degree of control over the narrative, exerted from the centers of power, over which Jews would be given the knowledge of the Pentateuch, as opposed to which ones wouldn't. Which in turn, would support the idea that there was nothing organic or grass-roots about these narratives, which were invented entirely for purposes of power and control.

However, Gmirkin admits:

That is not to say that there are no traces of pre-biblical Judaism in the biblical Judaism established by the Jewish senate of ca. 270 bce. Plato's Laws advocated promoting local temples (Plato, Laws 5.738c-d), priesthoods (Plato, Laws 6.759a-b) and traditional religious customs (Plato, Laws 6.759c-d; 8.828a-c) in order to promote the illusion of an ancient and divine authority for their laws (Plato, Laws 7.798a-b), and it was especially in the cultic sphere that we see continuity with older traditions and institutions in the Pentateuch. Although there is no evidence for the body of cultic regulations having existed in written form prior to ca. 270 bce, it probably reflects practices at the temples at Jerusalem and Mount Gerizim in earlier times.
What does Gmirkin mean, exactly, by "traces of pre-biblical Judaism"? It seems that he is leaving the door wide open for all sorts of possibilities.

Jerry Russell

Staff member
What does Gmirkin mean, exactly, by "traces of pre-biblical Judaism"?
Here's a possible example, discussed in an article by Jonathan Poletti. A scroll known as the "Shapira manuscript", or "The Valediction of Moses", was discovered in or about 1878 by Bedouin men, in a cave near the Dead Sea. The text was interpreted as an excerpt of the book of Deuteronomy.

History repeated itself in 1946, when Bedouin men exploring a cave discovered our modern "Dead Sea Scrolls".

After 1946, the Dead Sea Scrolls were recognized as genuine by most scholars. Unfortunately, the "Shapira manuscript" did not receive such a warm welcome. The vast majority of scholarly opinion immediately expressed skepticism. Orthodox Christians, in particular, were convinced that the scrolls must have been fake. The promoter, Moses Shapira, was disgraced and he perished by suicide. The manuscript scrolls themselves were lost irretrievably.

When the Dead Sea Scrolls emerged, the scholar John Allegro called for a re-evaluation of the Shapira manuscript. But for the most part, his case for re-evaluation fell on deaf ears.

The controversy has just been renewed again in the last few years. Most recently, Idan Dershowitz, Chair of Hebrew Bible at University of Potsdam, has published a book entitled "The Valediction of Moses: A Proto-Biblical Book", available for free download at academia.edu.

Working from Shapira's notes, artists' renditions of pages of the manuscript, and other early scholarly transcriptions and translations, Dershowitz has painstakingly restored the text, and provided a new translation. Dershowitz is convinced that the scrolls are genuine, based on the following evidence:

(1) Physical features of the scrolls, including a "bitumen" coating, vertical creases, and a single smooth edge, were originally denounced as evidence of forgery, but in fact are identical to features found in many Qumran manuscripts.

(2) The renderings of the writing made by artists, show commonality of paleographic letter forms with more recently discovered examples of Paleo-Hebrew from the First Temple (Iron II) period. Other scholars have made the error of analyzing copies of the manuscript made in the 1880's by Hebrew scholars of the time, who were incapable of recognizing the distinctive features of Paleo-Hebrew and therefore copied the characters incorrectly.

(3) Dershowitz discovered some loose pages from Shapira's own notes, showing that he was attempting to decipher the text of the scrolls, and making numerous errors in the process. He argues that it makes no sense that Shapira would have made any effort to read the scrolls if he himself had forged them. It is also impossible that anyone else but Shapira would have forged the scrolls, since Shapira is the only one who would have profited from their sale.

(4) A philological analysis of the text confirms some predictions made by the Documentary Hypothesis. The text is entirely free of priestly "P" interpolations, and is almost entirely an Elohist "E" source. Scholars in recent years have attempted to reconstruct the proto-Deuteronomic text (free of Priestly influence), and the text of the Shapira Manuscript is an uncanny match for such scholarly predictions.

Dershowitz says:

For a nineteenth-century forger to have constructed a text on the basis of insights that were first recorded by scholars generations later beggars belief. The same is true of a hypothetical Hellenistic writer working with the canonical Pentateuch. With what tools could an ancient editor have surgically re- moved post-Priestly insertions from Deuteronomy to create V? Shapira’s singular manuscripts thus have little in common with the so-called “rewritten scripture” of the Qumran corpus. Having determined that V is a proto-Deuteronomic text, it is almost certain that V was composed in the First Temple period.
In context of Gmirkin's arguments, the Shapira manuscript shows that the basic Exodus narrative was in place during the pre-exilic era. But it's also noteworthy, what seems to be missing. Aside from the Ten Commandments, there is no extensive recitation of Deuteronomic law. Even the names of YHWH and Moses himself are conspicuously missing, except for a preamble and postamble (one sentence each) which seem to be late additions to the text.