The Greatest Story Never Told

07/15/2013

The Bible is considered by some to be the greatest story ever told.  Movies have been made retelling the biblical stories and major world religions are based on the Bible.  The only problem is that they never told the whole story.

In the beginning

For starters, Genesis was not the beginning; rather it’s simply a creation story that was borrowed from Babylonian/Sumerian mythology (namely, the “Epic of Gilgamesh”).  Many historians agree that Genesis, verses 1 and 2, are actually two separate stories from two different writers.  The first writer wrote,  “Then God said, I give you… every tree that has fruit and seed in it.  They will be yours for food” (Genesis 1:29), while the second writer wrote, “Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat.  But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it. For in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die” (Genesis 2:16-17).  In addition there were other inconsistencies between the two stories such as whether animals or humans were created first and whether man and woman were created simultaneously or Eve was subsequently created from Adam’s rib. Obviously, both stories cannot be correct.

As for the Noah flood story, it has significant parallels with the very same “Epic of Gilgamesh.” In any event, the Bible flood story cannot be original since there is no archaeological evidence of a global flood that corresponds to the dating given in the Bible.  Finally, with respect to the Ten Commandments, they were mostly written about in the much older Egyptian “Book of the Dead.”

Origins of the Hebrew Bible

The Hebrew Bible, or Tanakh, is essentially the Old Testament of the Christian Bible.  The first five books of the Old Testament  are generally referred to as the Pentateuch, while others might refer to them as the Torah (the Mosaic Law). It has been said that the Pentateuch was written by Moses, however most historians would take exception to that idea.  Heck, for that matter you can’t even find Moses in the historical record so there is no proof that he even existed let alone wrote any religious scriptures.

Modern biblical scholarship generally states that during the 3,000 year period, stretching from Adam and Eve to the time of the Israelite exile in Babylon, the Israelites/Hebrews were polytheistic.  In other words, they worshipped other gods besides Jehovah.  This can be seen from the story in 2 Kings 22 about King Josiah (circa 610 BCE) and how he found the Torah scroll which had been previously lost for hundreds of years.  As the story goes, King Josiah intended to reintroduce the Book of the Law to the Israelites, but unfortunately he died soon thereafter and the Israelites continued their practice of worshipping many gods; this only eleven years before the beginning of the Babylonian exile.

So what changed?  Simply this: Beginning in the 6th century BCE, the Persians became rulers over most of the ancient world (the Achaemenid Empire it was called).  Now the Persians worshipped Ahura Mazda as part of their religion which was called Zoroastrianism.  One little known fact about Zoroastrianism is that it was the very first religion based on the concept of monotheism.  Ahura Mazda was omniscient, omnipotent and omnipresent.  Creation was accomplished in six days and began with a single couple. God (Ahura Mazda) gave his commandments to the Persian prophet Zoroaster on the top of a holy mountain (like the Moses story on Mt. Sinai).  All of this, of course, is eerily similar to the Pentateuch.

The Persian king held the fate of the Israelites in his hands.  Surprisingly, he allowed  them to return to Jerusalem and rebuild their temple and what’s more he even paid for it!  When the Hebrew priests returned from exile, they brought back with them the Old Testament which they had first written in Babylon, an Old Testament that changed the oral tradition of many gods to the Zoroastrian’s monotheistic concept of one god.  In addition, they brought back what is referred to as the Babylonian Talmud; such was the beginning of Judaism as we know it today.

The genesis of a people and a religion

The Israelites themselves didn’t exist per se until the time of Jacob, a grandson of Abraham.  It was Jacob who was later renamed Israel, thus the source of the name Israelites.  As for Abraham, he originally came from the city of Ur, one of the twelve original city-states of Sumer, and therefore was a Sumerian.  When Abraham journeyed to Canaan, it was the Sumerian mythology that he brought with him – the very Persian/Babylonian mythology that wound up as the underpinnings of the Old Testament.  History and culture had come full circle.  The mythology that had first come to Canaan with Abraham morphed into the Israelites new religion in a religious renaissance of sorts.  In effect, the Hebrew priests took older writings (mostly from Sumerian origin) and created a history for the Hebrew people.  As for Jehovah, he was transformed from merely one in a pantheon of gods into a monotheistic “one and only god.”

Epilogue

That might have been the end of the story except for two things.  First, Abraham was more than just the patriarch of the Israelites.  He was also the patriarch of the Muslims and the Persians, was a Brahmin to the Hindus and an important figure in Christianity.  That important history is omitted from the Bible – a history that would provide the linkage and context regarding the commonality of the world’s major religions.  Secondly, Christianity had relied on the Pentateuch as their basis in understanding Creation and God.  In so doing, they unknowingly accepted Sumerian mythology and all that that implied.  Further, their understanding of Jesus was limited to the Old Testament prophecy that the future king of Israel would be descended from the priestly caste of Aaron, through King David.  This was true in a sense but, Jesus was, in reality, part of the higher order of the Melchizedek Priesthood.  It was this mystical/spiritual Jesus, and his teachings, that are not reflected in the scriptures; a story that has yet to be told.  Until it is, the Bible will forever be the greatest story never told.

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8 Responses to “The Greatest Story Never Told”

  1. Mike said

    Reblogged this on What comes to my mind… and commented:
    I love this analysis 🙂

  2. Nan said

    I did research on this for my book (“Things I Never Learned in Sunday School”) and concur with nearly ever word you wrote. Good job!

  3. makagutu said

    Did Abraham grace our beautiful planet or is he part of the greater legend or myth if you prefer?

  4. Another interesting and informative post! Your posts on the origins of Christianity always help clarify and further my understanding of the Christian religion.

  5. Lux Ferous said

    I think your dismissal of the Genesis Creation story and the Noah flood is a bit too quick. For one, the similarities between the Genesis creation story and the Babylonian myths aren’t very large. The Israeli take emphasizes the monotheism within it (although the OT doesn’t always), and the similarities have to do with offhand mentions to the wind and stuff.

    As for the flood story, the Genesis take is interesting because it actually gives a purpose to the flood (God’s benevolence in wanting to better humanity by destroying the current stock). The Babylonian myth is something along the lines of humans are noisy, let’s kill them all….

    To summarize, I love the post, but I wish you were a bit less quick to dismiss everything in the OT as polytheistic trash. At the very least, you have to recognize the Israeli take was very different. Also by many arguments, Zoroastrianism is more dualist than monotheist. Either way, their influence is sadly underestimated.

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