Fun with the Bible: Verifying Isaiah with Archaeology and How the World Could Be Without Judaism, Christianity and Islam

There is a verse in the book of Isaiah, chapter 22, verse 10, that reads, “You counted the houses of Jerusalem, and you broke down the houses to fortify the wall.” This is in the midst of a denunciation of Hezekiah, king of Judea in the latter half of the eighth century BCE by Isaiah.

For you see, in the eighth century BCE, the Assyrians were marching across the known world (Mesapotamia, or the Middle East, if you will) and conquering the hell out of everyone. In Judea, King Hezekiah decided to build (by reinforcing) a great and mighty wall around the city of Jerusalem to protect it from the Assyrians. In the northern kingdom of Isreal, by the way, the Assyrians conquered the Israelites and dispersed the tribes. Hence the ten lost tribes of Israel. In any case, Hezekiah was not going to let that happen to Judea and so he built this wall.

On a separate note, modern archaeologists digging in the old city of Jerusalem uncovered the wall that Hezekiah had build around the city and at one point in the wall, they actually found the foundations of a house jutting out. Before that discovery, religious folks and scholars were unsure about the particular meaning of this verse and what it referred to – or that it referred to something so real and tangible. However, after this discovery scholars knew that King Hezekiah had indeed built this wall and that a contemporary of his had chastized him for disregarding the homes of the common people in order to build the wall.

Now, personally, I think Hezekiah made the right decision, but the point I want to make is not that. Much of the Bible, as many of you know I believe, did not happen – at least not the way it is written. However, that does not preclude the fact that much of it is still true. In some cases, archaeology like this can perfectly verify the words of the Bible.

However, I’d like you to consider something else. The Assyrians had a policy of moving the conquered people away from their land and moving foreign people in. Moreover, they would force these conquered people to marry and assimilate with people elsewhere, thereby destroying all tribal identities and creating only people who saw themselves as subjects of the Assyrian empire. This is precisely what happened with the ten northern tribes from the kingdom of Israel and why they are now lost, and had Hezekiah not built this wall and chosen to do it as he did then the tribe of Judah would no longer be here because the Assyrians would have conquered them and done the same thing.

To whatever degree you think God has a hand in things, consider that without this man building this wall, there would have been no Judea and therefore no Jews. Thus, there would be NO Christianity and I’d be willing to bet, no Islam. Many people might cynically say, No religions, that’s a great thing, but let’s not be so naive as to imagine that nothing else – no other beliefs – would have risen in place of these systems that now dominate humanity. And no matter what, human nature would have overridden the peaceful inclinations that those religions had. Don’t forget, at their core Islam and Christianity are both religions of peace, for whatever violence has plagued their histories.

So, no wall from Hezekiah and the world as we know it would be a very different place. Consider that when you consider the impact of small things on the world at large.

What do you think about these verses?

Get a FREE Bonus Chapter from The Zen of South Park.

Enjoy some Fun with the Bible posts.

Religion in the News: Exciting New Discovery of Syria’s Largest Ancient Church

In Palyrma, a town in central Syria, what is thought to be the largest church ever discovered in the state has been unearthed. Archaeologists think that it is 1500 years old; they have even discovered other building of significance, including an amphitheater, in the area of the church.

I love new discoveries like this: anything that sheds light on our picture of early Christianity and allows us to understand the religion’s dissemination and early theology better. Plus, it’s an interesting reminder to us all that Christianity was so popular in certain regions of the modern Middle East. In fact, Syria’s Antioch is one of the five patriarchates.

There is no period of Christianity (or history for that matter!) that I don’t find fascinating, but I’m particularly intrigued by the early period, which is often dated between the first and sixth centuries – though I don’t think it would be inappropriate to cut it off earlier. In any case, this church is a really cool find from that period, and I hope that the archaeologists continue to find other things in the area that shed light on the period and religion. After all, the dry dessert heat preserves scrolls really well, so it’s not impossible that some awesome texts stored in ancient jars will be unearthed!….but nothing yet.

Get a FREE Bonus Chapter from The Zen of South Park.

Read more Religion in the News posts.

Fun with the Bible: 6 Great Reasons that Moses Could Never Have Written the Bible

I was asked during the first Fun with the Bible post to talk about the authorship of Genesis-Deuteronomy, also known as the Pentateuch, the Torah or the Five Books of Moses. The question was, is Moses the author of the books whose collective title bears his name. The answer is no.

What Are Our Premises?

Now, numerous religious people will be popping their lids right now and claiming that I’m wrong, a blasphemer, a moron, evil, Satan, etc. And who would I be to deny most of those appellations. But as for the first one, I must object. Moses is not the author of any part of the Bible.

How do I know such things? Well, I must admit that my criteria for investigating the Bible are reason, logic, linguistics, archaeological evidence and the actual words of the Bible. I’m not concerned with what religious authorities say unless they are basing their arguments on these criteria and not just tradition, which is the only thing that could contend for Moses’ authorship.

Though I can’t supply a full list of reasons right here, I will offer a few examples as food for thought to get you started, and then send you on your way to read the first books of the Bible yourself.

A Few Good Reasons

1. Reason number one is that the Bible NEVER claims to be authored by Moses or anyone else for that matter. No one internally claims authorship. If Moses authored the Bible, you think he’d have said something – or anyone who wanted to be remembered for doing so for that matter. Only later religious people, hoping to attribute authorship and lend validity, claimed that Moses was the author.

2. Another issue is time. The Pentateuch is written in such a way – and doesn’t try to hide the fact! – that implies looking backward. It refers to the present day by saying things like “until this day” or “that was current then.” For instance, Genesis 23:16 refers to weights and measures as they were current in the time of the story, not the author’s time. Things are said in Moses’ time that they are there until this day.

3. Getting things plain wrong is a problem too. Presumably if God was telling Moses the way things were, he wouldn’t get facts wrong. For instance, in Genesis 21:32-34, the Bible speaks of Abraham residing in the land of the Philistines, a people that, archaeologically speaking, weren’t in the land until hundreds and hundreds of years after the supposed time of Abraham.

4. Mistakes and inconsistencies exist in the text, problems that surely Moses, if God were telling him what to say, would not have created. The reason for these problems, scholars have discovered, is that there are multiple authors’ voices and texts in the Pentateuch. In fact, Genesis through Deuteronomy is the weaving together of multiple texts to create one story. It was done very well but the originals were not changed. Some characters have multiple names, contradicting or repeating stories, etc. We don’t have to get into the details here but this is called the Documentary Hypothesis. If you want to know more, we can talk about it. Just ask.

5. Logical inconsistencies exist. Read the first verse of Deuteronomy. “These are the words that Moses spoke to all Israel beyond the Jordan.” Well, it’s logically impossible for Moses to have written such a sentence. “Beyond the Jordan” means on the other side of the Jordan (though some crappier translations try to gloss over this wording, the original biblical Hebrew has precisely this meaning) and it is a biblical fact that Moses never went into the land of Canaan. Therefore, if he was only on the eastern side of the Jordan River and the person said he spoke on the other side of the Jordan River the person writing must logically be writing from inside of Canaan (approximately modern day Israel). That person can’t be Moses. Get it?

6. Moses can’t speak of his own death, right? In the end of Deuteronomy, Moses talks of his own death – saying, “Moses died.” The author also says that Moses was “unequaled” after we are told earlier that Moses was the most humble man ever. Seems illogical that he could say both things about himself, huh?

Where to Go from Here

There are numerous other reasons besides and many more examples for each of the points I’ve mentioned but this should get you started. If you read Genesis through Deuteronomy from the beginning without the usual religious biases that people have trouble with then you’ll see all this for yourself.

Read the Bible like any other book that you would read, not affording it the privilege of not making sense simply because it doesn’t and because it’s the Bible. Ask questions and see what’s wrong. I’m here to help if you get stuck or don’t understand something.

This is having fun with the Bible – reading it on our own to see all the great things we can learn from it while trying to get at the truth about its history and origins.

Do you have any questions? Do you disagree with everything I’ve said and want to tell me why? Do you think Moses wrote the Pentateuch? Why?

Can you give any other examples of why Moses couldn’t have written the Pentateuch?

Get a FREE Bonus Chapter from The Zen of South Park.

Enjoy more Fun with the Bible posts.