Revision of Weeks 11 _ 14

The Ancient Israelites and the
Hebrew Bible
Revision of Weeks 11 - 14
Who are the Jews?
• AKA Hebrews, AKA Israelites
• (One of the) first monotheistic religions =
worship of one God.
• Their history, beliefs and laws are recorded in
the Tanakh and the Talmud.
1. What is the Hebrew Bible?
AKA Tanakh
AKA The Old Testament
The Holy Book of Judaism
• The Tanakh is the chief holy book of Judaism
• Judaism’s other holy book is called the
• The Talmud is largely composed of an oral
tradition of interpretation of the the Tanakh
that was eventually written down.
The Hebrew Bible is also part of the
Christian Bible
• The Hebrew Bible is the first part of the
Christian Bible – what is called the Old
• Jesus was a Jew, as were the first Christians.
• At first Christianity was a new development
within Judaism, only after time did it become
a separate religion.
Stories of the Hebrew Bible also retold
in Islam’s holy book – the Quran
The Structure of the Bible
• The Hebrew Bible aka the Old Testament
(Christian & Jewish):
The Law – The five books of Moses
The Prophets – history of the united monarchy and the
kingdoms of Judah and Israel, including Joshua, Judges,
Samuel and Kings.
The Writings
New Testament (Christian):
Gospels - the life and death of Jesus
Acts of the Apostles - the work and teaching of the early
founders of the Church
Epistles - letters from Christian leaders, particularly Paul, to
Christian communities
Book of Revelation
TaNaK (Tanakh)
aka the Hebrew Bible, aka Old Testament
• An acronym for the three parts of the text:
Torah (law); Nebi’im (prophets); Kethub’im
• A total of 24 books (39 by the Christian system
of counting)
Torah (also called Books of Moses or
The Torah as a Collection
• First part of the canon established
• It was pulled together after the fall of
Jerusalem in 587/86 BCE.
• Regarded as fixed by the 4th century BCE
• Most authoritative texts in Judaism
The origins of the Torah according to
the Torah
• According to biblical tradition, the Torah was
revealed to Moses at Sinai.
• Aron Tendler, Associate Rabbi, Yeshiva
University: “We believe the Torah was written
by the hand of Moses but dictated to him by
God himself in a totally divine manner, no
different than you would dictate a letter to a
Prophets (Nebi’im or Nevi’im)
• Former Prophets
• Latter Prophets
– Major Prophets
• Isaiah
• Jeremiah
• Ezekiel
– Minor Prophets
(Book of the 12)
• Hosea, Joel, Amos,
Obadiah, Jonah, Micah,
Nahum, Habakkuk,
Zephaniah, Haggai,
Zechariah, Malachi
Writings (Kethub’im or Kethuv’im)
Song of Songs
The Tanakh
• The Tanakh is written primarily
in Hebrew
• We do not have any original
manuscripts; we only have
copies of copies
• Codex Leningradensis is the
oldest complete Hebrew
manuscript we have. It dates
to 1008 CE
Genesis Chapters 1 - 3
The Documentary Hypothesis
• The Documentary Hypothesis is the theory
that the first five books of the Hebrew Bible
(aka The Torah aka The Five Books of Moses
aka the Pentateuch) derive from four distinct
sources. These four sources sometimes
overlap and are sometimes inconsistent.
When did God create woman?
When did God create woman?
• Chapter 1: 27 So God created mankind in his
own image, in the image of God he created
them; male and female he created them.
Chapter 2: God creates Adam. At first he is
alone. Almost as if the creation recounted in
chapter 1 had never happened. Then creates
all the animals and has Adam name them and
only then creates Eve.
When did God create birds?
When did God create birds?
• [On the 5th day, prior to creation of man and woman on
the 6th day] 20 And God said, “Let the water teem with
living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across
the vault of the sky.” 21 So God created the great
creatures of the sea and every living thing with which
the water teems and that moves about in it, according
to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its
kind.” [Man and woman created on the 6th day].
• Gen 2:19 Animals and birds created after Adam, in
conflict with chapter 1.
When did God create plants?
When did God create plants?
• Gen 2:4-7 seems to announce a wholly new
beginning. Seems to say humanity was
created before plant life but Chapter 1 has
vegetation created on the third day (along
with the earth) and humanity created on the
What is God like?
What is God like?
• Chapter 1: God is a cosmic sovereign.
• Chapters 2 and 3: God is a divine craftsman. He
Himself shapes Adam out of the mud and
breathes air into his nostrils. God walks about the
Garden (Gen 3:8). When Adam and Eve hide from
him, he calls out “where are you?” Apparently, he
does not know. At the end, God makes clothes for
the pair – another hands-on act.
‘God’ vs ‘Lord God’
• God is referred to quite consistently in chapter 1 by the
word “God” (elohim).
• Starting at Gen 2:4, exactly where the story of Adam and
Eve begins, he suddenly becomes “the Lord God”. The word
“God” is now preceded by YHWH (the proper name of the
Hebrew god). “The Lord God” is used consistently until the
end of chapter 3.
• The writer who referred to him as God saw him as a cosmic
• The writer who used the name “the Lord God” conceived of
him in more personal terms, a sort of divine humanoid who
walked around and shaped things and made clothes.
The Documentary Hypothesis
The Yawehist (J) is the source of the
Adam and Eve story
The Yawehist (J) is the source of the
Adam and Eve story
• Story of Adam and Eve a product of the author known
as J: uses YHWH; anthropomorphic conception of God;
focused on humanity; the effect of past events on
humanity’s present condition
• People have to work for food, women have to suffer
the pain of childbirth because of the first humans’
• Human beings are called man (adam in Hebrew)
because that’s what the first created human was
called. This in turn was because he was made out of
the ground (adamah)
Adam and Eve as allegory
Adam and Eve as allegory
• Interesting theory about the meaning of Adam
and Eve – seems to reflect the moment humanity
discovered the secret of agriculture.
Figuring out that seeds can be collected and then
deliberately planted in fields was a great step
forward for humanity.
But agriculture brought with it certain pains –
working long hours under the sun, earning one’s
bread “by the sweat of your face” (Gen 3:19)
Adam and Eve as allegory
• At a similar stage of historical development,
people began to wear more clothes.
• At a similar time, human beings discovered
that childbirth is the result of an “act of
planting” nine months earlier. Before this
discovery, a father may not understand he has
any specific relationship to this or that child.
Afterwards, the man “will cling to his wife and
they shall be one flesh” (Gen 2: 24).
Noah and the Flood
What doublets occur in Genesis,
Chapters 6 – 9?
Noah and the Flood
Q) What similarities exist between the
Mesopotamian and biblical flood stories?
Quote from The Epic of Gilgamesh
Similarity with the Biblical flood story
The hearts of the Great Gods moved them to inflict
the Flood.
Gods decide to send a flood.
Tear down the house and build a boat!
Command to build a boat.
... keep alive living beings! Make all living beings go
up into the boat.
Instruction to take other living beings onto the
The boat which you are to build,
its dimensions must measure equal to each other:
its length must correspond to its width.
The dimensions of the boat are specified.
Roof it over like the Apsu.
Roofed over like the ark
three times 3,600 (units of) pitch ...into it
Common building material
I had all my kith and kin go up into the boat,
Family enters the ark
I went into the boat and sealed the entry.
Similar to Noah’s entry onto the ark
submerging the mountain in water
Mountains submerged with water
On Mt. Nimush the boat lodged firm
Boat comes to rest on a mountain
I sent forth a dove and released it.
The dove went off, but came back to me...
Similar to Noah sending out birds to see if the water
has receded
Then I sent out everything in all directions and
sacrificed (a sheep).
Sacrifice offered to the Gods
The gods smelled the savor
Gods smell the sacrifice
Abraham (Genesis)
1813 BCE: Abraham born
1738 BCE: Abraham settles in Canaan
1677 BCE: Isaac prepared as sacrifice
1653 BCE: Jacob born
- No independent corroboration for any of the early
figures (although Egyptian and Babylonian kings at
the time of, say, Moses are firmly established, we
know of their actions, remains have been found)
- - No archaeological evidence that Abraham,
Noah, Moses or Joshua ever existed
- - Place names, Philistines, domesticated camels
all belong to 1200 BC and after
- - Inconsistency between two accounts of
creation in Genesis
Abraham (Genesis)
1813 BCE: Abraham born
1738 BCE: Abraham settles in Canaan
1677 BCE: Isaac prepared as sacrifice
1653 BCE: Jacob born
- 19th Century scholarship: “… believed that someone (that is, J or E)
who lived long after Abraham, indeed, long after the people of Israel
had settled Canaan, made up these stories in order to justify that
- 2Oth Century – first half: discovery of Ur (which had disappeared
from history in the 17th century BCE); Nuzi tablets (near Haran)
reveal legal practices, customs that fit with Abraham narrative; Mari
tablets mention names that are those of Abraham’s family. His life
and times appear to fit uniquely well with the first half of the 2nd
millennium BCE.
- 20th Century – second half: Philistines interacting with Abraham
seems anachronistic; absence of any reference to Abraham of
Israel’s 8th and 7th century prophets; one scholar argues Abraham’s
story created to reflect the Jews’ return after exile in Babylon;
nowhere in the bible does it say that Abraham did not worship other
- Sacrifice a ritual to mark an agreement like a signature is today
Joseph (Genesis)
1562 BCE: Joseph born
1546 BCE: Joseph sold into slavery
1532 BCE: Joseph becomes Egypt's
1523 BCE: Jacob and family move to
- “Ancient Egyptian records reveal
that Semitic peoples from the area of
Canaan did indeed frequently go
down to Egypt in time of famine...”
- Western Semites known as the
Hyksos, actually took over control of
Egypt for a century or so
(approximately 1670 – 1570 BCE)
Moses (Exodus)
1429 BCE: Egyptian enslavement begins
1393 BCE: Moses born
1313 BCE: Exodus from Egypt
Revelation at Mt Sinai
1312 BCE: Moses brings down second set of
- No independent corroboration for any of the early
figures (although Egyptian and Babylonian kings at
the time of, say, Moses are firmly established)
- - “One account has the descendants of
Abraham going to Egypt and then being led by
Moses, via the Wilderness, into Canaan. In the
other account, the land is settled from the east,
with no mention of Egypt.” (Watson, p. 156)
- - “It is the J source that refers to the special
relationship between God and the Jews, but
there is no mention of a covenant concerning
the land. This is why the covenant is thought to
be a later invention of the 6th century when,
during exile, the Jews became aware of
Zoroastrian beliefs in Babylon.”
- Expulsion of the Hyksos may be the basis for
the Exodus story
Is the Bible’s story of the
conquest of Canaan accurate?
Jericho and other archaeological
Joshua and the conquest of Canaan
1272 BCE: Death of Moses
Yehoshua (Joshua) leads Jews into
- Menetaph stele dated to 1204 BC records Egyptian
conquest of Ashkelon and Gezer and describes the
destruction of ‘the people of Israel’.
- No independent corroboration for any of the early figures
(although Egyptian and Babylonian kings at the time of, say,
Moses are firmly established)
- No archaeological evidence to support the story of a 13th
century conquest followed by a united monarchy
- no evidence of a short military campaign of conquest
- no evidence of any cities in the area being sacked or
- Arud, Ai and Gibeon – said to have been conquered by
Joshua are now known not to have existed then
- Evidence of continuity of lifestyle: distinctive pottery, fourroom house evolved over 150 years
Merneptah Stele
(aka the
Menetaph Stele,
aka Israel Stele)
Merneptah Stele
• Dated to 1209/1208 BCE
• Inscription by the Ancient Egyptian king
Merneptah (reign:1213 to 1203 BC)
• Found at Thebes
Merneptah Stele
• “Canaan is captive with all woe. Ashkelon is
conquered, Gezer seized, Yanoam made
nonexistent; Israel is wasted, bare of seed.”
Merneptah Stele
• The determinative accompanying Gezer,
Ashkelon and Yanoam indicate they are citystates.
• The determinative accompanying Israel
indicates it is a foreign people, perhaps a
nomadic tribe.
Merneptah Stele
• Scholarly debate about translation for
Some scholars suggest it doesn’t refer to Israel
but Jezreel.
• Only known Egyptian reference to the
• Earliest known reference to the Israelites
Alt’s theory of settlement
El Amarna Letters
Canaanite Exurbanite Model

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