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Is Bible history fact or fiction?


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#1 eMTee

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Posted 28 April 2005 - 09:29 PM

Now when it comes to the Creation story, it sounds so far fetched, that it can, and most likely be a made up story..and it is to most all people. no question about that...so I will not ask if anyone believes that or not.

I won't ask any questions about the flood either.

What about the story about the Jew's exit out of Egypt? considering that that story does not have anything to do with the creation( as far as I know), but it also has events that are also far fetched. and other stories like it (name if desired).

#2 WhitePhoenix

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Posted 28 April 2005 - 10:30 PM

The Bible..in my opinion has facts and ficticious stories. You have to remember that this is a story that is comprised of many different people passing the stories on to others. You know...like the telephone game.....some of it has to be exaggerated..right? Also people enterpret different meanings to what they read or hear.

#3 pgrmdave

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Posted 28 April 2005 - 10:53 PM

Some of the Bible is historic, but not in the sense that we think it. It is not true in the literal sense, but it is a story which was handed down generations to explain the culture. Similar to how we view the fifties as a golden age, when really, they were not at all. It is a cultural tool to look up to an ideal, to have something to strive for. The biblical account of the exodus was used to show why the Jewish people acted as they did. It explained why they were outcasts, and why they were where they were.

#4 Queso

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Posted 28 April 2005 - 11:17 PM

precisely. mythology.

#5 Turtle

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Posted 28 April 2005 - 11:43 PM

___Biblical archeology is a succesfull practice in some cases; I seem to recall the city of Jericho was located by following Biblical history.
___But as the others say, the Bible is a collection of stories from many sources, & so each must be taken on its own merit. I have studied the Bible as literature & in one class it took some time for the instructor to get through to a few students that the class had nothing to do with religion. Strictly the literary qualities & strucure & themes.
___Many sayings & stories in the Bible come from older texts including Homer & the Sumerian Epic of Gilgamesh. Others were left out like the Gospels of Thomas & James.
___The Bible is worth reading if for no other reason than to broaden one's knowledge & know what you're talking about when Bible enthusiast want to tell you what it says. I can read; I'll determine what it says for myself.

#6 Tormod

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Posted 29 April 2005 - 12:57 AM

Moved to Philosophy and Humanities section. We really need to get a history forum up...

#7 Biochemist

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Posted 29 April 2005 - 07:40 AM

precisely. mythology.

Just thought I would point out that this is a statement of faith, not an observation.

#8 Qfwfq

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Posted 29 April 2005 - 08:36 AM

Biblical archeology is a succesfull practice in some cases; I seem to recall the city of Jericho was located by following Biblical history.

So did Schliemann find Troy with the help of the Illiad, but the reasons for the Acheans sieging it wasn't because Agamemnon wanted pretty Helen back. The reason was the same one for which the crusades were fought, and all other fighting over the Holy Lands.

The details are fictional but symbolic of many historical facts. Abraham is thought to have come from Ur in Mesopatomia, the "Garden of Eden" and perhaps he didn't live quite as long as Genesis says. The tribes were taken slaves in Egypt because the Pharaohs had waged a few wars against the areas from Sinai toward Lebanon and Syria, they eventually got free but some of the details are a bit fictious.

Many sayings & stories in the Bible come from older texts including Homer & the Sumerian Epic of Gilgamesh. Others were left out like the Gospels of Thomas & James.

Yeah, there are many different versions, from the Torah to the KJV and other more recent ones.

#9 Qfwfq

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Posted 29 April 2005 - 08:54 AM

precisely. mythology.

Wrong term!!!

Fiction based on fact is legend. Myth is something totally fictious, based on no fact al all. Greek mythology is Zeus and co. up on mt. Olympus. The epics were thought to be basically fictional but only recently were there discoveries of factual origins of these stories. The Etruscans have been considered quite possibly the descendants of the surviving Trojans.

#10 Queso

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Posted 29 April 2005 - 09:06 AM

ahh well thanks for correcting me! you're right, that makes a lot more sense

#11 Biochemist

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Posted 29 April 2005 - 09:06 AM

What about the story about the Jew's exit out of Egypt?

The Bible..in my opinion has facts and ficticious stories. You have to remember that this is a story that is comprised of many different people passing the stories on to others. You know...like the telephone game.....

......Many sayings & stories in the Bible come from older texts including Homer & the Sumerian Epic of Gilgamesh. Others were left out like the Gospels of Thomas & James.

This is actually a pretty interesting topic, if we can keep all of the flames out of it.

Any way you look at it, the Bible is a pretty remarkable book. I can't address the external historical confirmability of the departure of the Hebrews from Goshen, or their period of toil in Egypt. But the weight of archaeological evidence and history is generally pretty strongly supportive of Biblical events. It would be unreasonable for an archaeologist that is going to spend money on a dig not to consider the Biblical references to place the location.

One of the many problems with old texts is they are particularly difficult to interpret, and there are different source texts to translate from. Until the discovery of the Dead Sea scrolls in the late 1940's, the oldest text we had for the old testament was the "Masoretic" text which dates back to about 900 AD. Given that Abraham lived in about 2000 BC, a lot of folks shared WhitePhoenix' concern that it was unlikely that a document could be carried forward successfully for thousands of years without mistranscription. The Dead Sea scrolls date to about 300BC, and archaeologists (and Bedouins) recovered a full copy of Isaiah that was only a character or two off from the version recorded by the Masoretes 1200 years later. This gave some folks some confidence that the critical texts could be carried forward over long time periods without significant adulteration.

That being said, translation of ancient texts is quite challenging. Hebrew (the language of the OT) is often quite poetic in style, and it is often difficult to separate the poetry from the historical narrative. The writers were undoubtedly influenced by their peer cultures, but is is a bit of a stretch to suggest that anythying after Genesis 12 (where Abraham shows up) was borrowed from other cultural sources. Almost all of the stuff from before Genesis 12 is pretty hard to figure out because the poetic density is so high, and the historical narrative in discontinuous. Even there, however, it is difficult to establish that any stories were directly borrowed from neighboring cultures. But after Genesis 12, we have what looks like a reasonably cogent history.

As Turtle mentioned, there are lots of ancient texts, and some were not included in various versions of the Bible. Particularly with the New testament (mostly Greek) documents, there are thousands of source documents, and the church had to decide which ones to incluce as canon. The justification for inclusion of specific texts is a topic on its own. But given the age of the texts, the reliability is remarkably high.

...The Bible is worth reading if for no other reason than to broaden one's knowledge & know what you're talking about when Bible enthusiast want to tell you what it says. I can read; I'll determine what it says for myself.

I agree with this point. Although when I started in that model, my conclusion was that I usually did NOT know what it said, or at least what it meant. I found that experience remarkably informative.

#12 lindagarrette

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Posted 29 April 2005 - 03:20 PM

This is actually a pretty interesting topic, if we can keep all of the flames out of it.

Any way you look at it, the Bible is a pretty remarkable book. I can't address the external historical confirmability of the departure of the Hebrews from Goshen, or their period of toil in Egypt. But the weight of archaeological evidence and history is generally pretty strongly supportive of Biblical events.

There is no archeological evidence or historical evidence that the Hebrews were in Egypt during the period mentioned in the Bible -- the Exodus story. It is all conjecture and speculation by biblical scholars. In fact, if makes no logistic sense and is contrary to how the tribes would have been distributed during the time. There are many research essays on this topic. http://www.talkorigi...c/CH/CH120.html

#13 Biochemist

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Posted 29 April 2005 - 03:39 PM

There is no archeological evidence or historical evidence that the Hebrews were in Egypt during the period mentioned in the Bible -- the Exodus story. It is all conjecture and speculation by biblical scholars. In fact, if makes no logistic sense and is contrary to how the tribes would have been distributed during the time....

The antitheist speaks again.

It would be fairer to suggest that there are a number of questions outstanding about the Biblical account. In the Biblical account (as I recall) the record of the Hebrews in Egypt was actually stricken from Egyption records by Pharaoh, a process not unheard of when the Pharoah was insulted or affonted. The site of Goshen has (I believe) not been uncovered, but some are still looking for it. See the attached:

http://www.bibleorig...enMapFaqus.html

LG's link suggested that the sojourn in the desert should have showm some archaeological remains. That would be a lttle odd since they built no cities, were only there 40 years, and little else might have survived the 3300 years since Moses. Substantial cities from that period have not been found after intense search. What would archaeologists look for in the desert?

I do think the internal Biblical record is strange (Why could these folks not find Caanan in 40 years? Why did they hang out in the desert?) and is more intriguing than the paucity of external corroboration. There are explanations for these anomalies, but it is an odd story in any context.

#14 Buffy

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Posted 29 April 2005 - 04:38 PM

Its pretty well accepted that this particular period of biblical history was written down much later (Bob is more likely the author than Moses himself). As such there are bits of evidence showing up that yes, the Israelites were conquered/enslaved by the Egyptians and then freed when they became politically troublesome (thus becoming subject to historical purging by the Egyptians as Bio references, a practice that was VERY common in Egyptian history even between successive Pharoahs e.g. Akenaten). The "40 years" is likely allegorical, to heighten the persecution of the Israelites, and it is clear that they simply were nomadic, not being necessarily welcomed in Canaan when they got there.

A tangential topic here is that in the March/April 2005 issue of Archeology Magazine, there is a facinating article on Asherah a goddess of Canaanite theology who is referenced in the Old Testament numerous times, but always negatively. The article argues that the Israelites transmogrified their religion from Canaanite origins, that Yahweh was a combination of their Gods and initially Yahweh had a consort in Asherah. The hostility in the Old Testament toward her was to diminish her role as a second God in order to suppress those who worshiped her as well, and reinforce the evolving monotheistic bent that Judaism pioneered. Really facinating stuff....

Cheers,
Buffy

#15 Biochemist

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Posted 29 April 2005 - 05:05 PM

Ooh. Good post, Buff-

Its pretty well accepted that this particular period of biblical history was written down much later (Bob is more likely the author than Moses himself).

My impression is that there isn't much that is pretty well accepted about this, even among conservative scholars. It looks to me like the "preferred" mechanics of formation of the pentateuch get rewritten about every 50 years, and then the new theory gets discredited. The surprise (to me) is the incredible integrity of the source texts through the ages.

As such there are bits of evidence showing up that yes, the Israelites were conquered/enslaved by the Egyptians and then freed when they became politically troublesome (thus becoming subject to historical purging by the Egyptians as Bio references, a practice that was VERY common in Egyptian history even between successive Pharoahs e.g. Akenaten).

Thanks for the corroboration.

The "40 years" is likely allegorical, to heighten the persecution of the Israelites, and it is clear that they simply were nomadic, not being necessarily welcomed in Canaan when they got there.

I think you are correct about this as well. But it is still a surprise to me that they hung out in the desert so long, even though it was apparent that they were afraid to enter into Canaan.

... Asherah a goddess of Canaanite theology who is referenced in the Old Testament numerous times, but always negatively. The article argues that the Israelites transmogrified their religion from Canaanite origins, that Yahweh was a combination of their Gods and initially Yahweh had a consort in Asherah.

The tendency of folks to advocate that the Hebrew monotheism was stolen in some flavor from neighboring cultures is common. So far, just in these threads, the god of the Hebrews has been adapted from a Goddess in Ur, your Canaan source, and I think someone suggested a Sumerian source as well (the Ur source would have been 800 years earlier than yours; the Sumerian is anybody's guess). The Biblical story of God being a "jealous" God, not to mention the First commandment, suggests that the simplest story is the Biblical one. God consistently reminded His people that He was not enthusiastic about their dalliances with other dieties. There is little doubt that the Hebrews (and later the Canaanite Hebrews) were consistently influenced by their spiritual surroundings. And it seemed to make God grumpy regularly.

#16 UncleAl

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Posted 29 April 2005 - 05:34 PM

What about the story about the Jew's exit out of Egypt?

What about six million Jews - in large majority fundamentalists who died singng His praises - murdered in Hitler's camps? Was God otherwise occupied? Yahweh is a particularly bloody god, Turks slaughtering Armenians to Northern Irish slaughtering each other... and He loves you! Test of faith. Nice clothes on that emperor, eh?

The bible is primarily opportunistic political tripe. Hindues have 36 crores of gods. That is 360 million deities. Is India a land of affluence and working toilets?

http://www.mazepath....al/religion.htm

#17 Biochemist

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Posted 29 April 2005 - 05:47 PM

The bible is primarily opportunistic political tripe. Hindues have 36 crores of gods. That is 360 million deities. Is India a land of affluence and working toilets?

So, you are suggesting that any reasonable God would establish some sort of direct relationship between quantity of diety and quality of indoor plumbing.

That makes perfect sense.