The is really a rewrite of Louis Cable's "The First Bible" with more up to date information:
On the question of the origin of the Bible, many years of dedicated research and analysis by Christian and non-Christian scholars in the fields of history, literature, theology, epigraphy and archaeology have been slowly putting together a unified picture. This picture is devastating to the Evangelistic claim of biblical inerrancy, infallibility and divine inspiration. Claims that God wrote the Bible leaves his literary competency and sanity open to question!
It is obvious that the Bible is the product of a large number of authors and editors over a period of nearly 1000 years, where the works were combined by the editors in ways the authors never dreamed of. Christian tradition holds that the Pentateuch (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy) were written by Moses, but few if any scholars today attribute them to him, much less to any one person! The prevailing view is that these were originally four separate works, J.E.P. and D., which were combined during the Babylonian exile to form one continuous narrative. Similarly, the so-called Deuteronomistic history (Joshua, Judges, Samuel I and II and Kings I and II) is understood by the large majority of scholars to have been complied by a single individual using a group of works by many different persons as sources. These books are considered to be nationalistic fiction used to give the fledgling Temple State a heroic history to match that of their neighbors. This holds true to the group of books called the Chronicler’s history (Chronicles I and II, Ezra and Nehemiah). Although our knowledge is incomplete, we are at a point in which we can separated the various sources and in some cases identify who the author was, when they were written and why they were written.
Pentateuch (having five books) is a misnomer; it originally constituted a block of eleven books (the first 10 books of the OT plus the 12th book, leaving out Ruth a book of the late Persian/early Greek period). This collection of books was the product of a number of authors writing over a broad sweep of time that extended from the establishment of the Kingdom of Israel under Omri in the 9th century BCE to the close of the Babylonian exile in the mid 5th century BCE. Analysis, both historical and literary, reveals that the Pentateuch is not the single interconnected narrative it seems, but is instead a composition four different source documents cleverly combined to appear so. This new document presents one continuous narrative chronicling, along with God’s laws, the origin and early history of the Hebrew people. The process through which the discovery was made has come to be know as the “Documentary Hypothesis” or Higher Criticism and is credited to the German historians and Bible scholars Wellhausen, Graf and Vatke. The four source documents are:
J (Yahweh/Jehovah) - associated with the divine name.
E (Elohim) - referred to the deity as God.
P (Priestly) - legal sanctions and priestly duties.
D (Deuteronomy) - the books of the early prophets.
The chronological order of the source documents was determined by way of comparative analysis. J and E date to somewhere shortly before 900 BCE and are probably the earliest biblical writings, although they may have been preceded by a period of orally transmitted mythology. This is evident by the knowledge of Omri and his period but of no knowledge of the 722 BCE conquest of Israel by Assyria. The priestly source, P, was written after J and E, but before D. It’s authors are aware of the conquest of Israel, but unaware of those matters mentioned in D. This puts a date of sometime between before 722 BCE until just before 638 BCE (the reign of Josiah). D extols the virtues of King Josiah, is aware of his death at Megiddo and of the Babylonia conquest and exile that followed in 587 BCE. At this point D ends. This leaves the question, who wrote the J,E,P and D and why were they later combined. To answer these questions, we have to look at the origin of the Hebrews.
Paleoclimatic records show that an unusually sever drought persisted in what is now called the middle east for the better part of the 13th century with devastating effect. As the drought persisted, people were reduced to marauding bands of stateless brigands or fleeing refugees desperately in search of food and water. Cities were abandoned and destroyed. Whole empires crumbled and vanished never to rise again. One of the empires that fell victim to this natural disaster was Canaan, referred to in the Bible as the promised land.
In the 13th century BCE, an unusually severe drought affected the eastern Mediterranean area, from Greece around to the Palestinian area. This drought, called the Great Mycenaean Drought, devastated agriculture, causing the collapse of cities (nearly every Mycenaean Greek city state fell from internal and/or external strife at this time. Entire empires crumbled, never to rise again, the surviving citizens reduced to marauding bands or desperately fleeing refugees in search of food and water. Kind of a “Mad Max” sort of world , but without technology. One such empire to fall was the “promised land” Canaan. The beginning of the 12th century BCE saw the abatement of the drought and a cooler more humid climatic cycle begin. As farming and herding became once again feasible, the bands of raiders and refugees began to settle down and repopulate the area. Groups formed, developing their own ethnic and religious identities, but usually retaining dim memories of the pre-drought civilizations. This process has been termed “retribalization” by anthropologists. One such group eventually became known as the Hebrew and were more or less the retribalized descendants of the old Canaanite empire, retaining much of it’s cultural and religious features. The Hebrews were not descendants of ex-Egyptian slaves as portrayed in the Old Testament book of Genesis, which explains the total lack of mention of them in Egyptian documents.
Sharing a common religion and language, the Hebrews formed into first separate tribes and then into confederations of tribes, each with it’s own territorial areas. The two pre-national confederations were that of Israel, in the north, made up of the tribe of Israel and several smaller tribes and Judah in the south, made up of the tribe of Judah and several smaller tribes likewise. Both confederations had a powerful priesthood with an established tradition, a force to be reckoned with. Without there consent, no leader could rule or make war.
Each confederation had its religious center, Shiloh for Israel and Hebron for Judah. Although similar in most practices, the two groups had a basic disagreement. Judah’s priests claimed descent from Aaron, the recognized founder of their religion, while Israel’s priests claimed Moses as the founder of their faith. Thus giving the two groups the designation as “Aaronoids” and “Mushites”. As the confederations coalesced into nations (Israel in the 9th century BCE and Judah in the 8th century BCE), the two groups of priests, although fellow religionists, managed to ignore the other until the destruction and exile of Israel in 722 BCE. During this period, two separate but related sets of Holy Scriptures were written, the J document by the Judean priests and the E document by the Israelite priests. J and E do not refer to the nations, but to the name that they each called their God – J was for Jehovah (Yahweh) and E was for Elohim. These scriptures were similar in many respects but with one major difference, the hero and founder of the faith for J (Judah) was Aaron and for E (Israel) was Moses. During the time that both nations existed as independent nations, the two religions with a distant common heritage evolved along separate paths. In 722 BCE, the Assyrians conquered Israel, deporting the citizens of that kingdom to the border areas of the empire. Many Israelites die manage to seek refuge in Judah, the southern kingdom and naturally they brought their holy scripture, E, with them. At some point prior to the Babylonian exile, J and E were combined to form a “unified” scripture. This probably occurred out of the fear of an aggressive enemy sitting on the northern border of Judah and was a concession to those Israelite refugees to minimize or avoid internal strife, presenting a unified front to the Assyrians. This combination of these scriptures removed the main bone of contention between the two sets of powerful priests, leading to the unification of the two communities of Hebrews for the first time.
Literary analysis has another story entwined within the JE document. This story is identified as the “P” or priestly source. The apparent reason for the “P” source is to upgrade the role of Aaron (traditional founder of the Judean religion) and downgrade the role of Moses (the Israelite religion’s founder) Evidentially the priests of Judah had second thoughts on JE, saw it as giving the Mushite priests had managed somehow to upgrade their hero Moses, while giving Aaron short shift. Their answer was the “P” version that evidence shows was written by an Aaronoid priests during the reign of King Hezekiah (circ 715-687 BCE). “P” was written in such a manner as to restore Aaron’s prestige and the Aaroniod dominance in Judean civil and religious affairs. The changes are subtle, where the E (and subsequently the original JE) source regularly says, “And God said unto Moses…”, in the “P” source it was rendered, “And God said unto Moses and unto Aaron …”. Also in “E”, the magic tricks performed by Moses in Egypt were with his own staff, in “P”, however, these tricks are performed using Aarons staff. In fact, “P” maintains that Aaron and Moses were brothers, with Aaron being the firstborn. Another important aspect of “P”; for the first time priests are portrayed as the designated intermediaries between God and the people.
The last of the four sources is the Deuteronomic history, the “D” source, containing much of what became Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Samuel I and II, and Kings I and II, those documents written to give the States of Israel and Judah a history equal to their neighbors. In syntax, grammar and literay style, “D” stands totally apart from “J”,”E” and “P”. Much of “JE” is repeated in “D” but “P” is missing, indicating a Mushite source. In his doctoral dissertation, W.M.L. De Wette discusses the “lost” holy book that during the 18th year of the reign of the pro-Mushite King Josiah (circa 622 BCE) was mysteriously discovered in the temple. Giving much needed scriptural support to his proposed religious and governmental reforms, this discovery could not have been more convenient for King Josiah, plus it was heavily pro-Mushite. De Wette argues that far from beign a lost book of the Torah, “D” is little more than a pious fraud, written and planted in the temple not long before it’s “discovery”, with the sole purpose of supporting Josiah’s reforms and enhancing the power and prestige of the Mushites! According to “D”, Josiah was the reincarnated Moses, God’s chosen leader, destined to drive out the Assyrian invaders of Israel and create a united nation containing Israel and Judah, bringing a greatness to rival the mythical one of David and Solomon. Before this became even a remote possibility, in a minor skirmish with Egyptian forces in 609 BCE, Josiah was mortally wounded with an arrow through his chest, putting an end to Hebrew dreams of conquest and glory. In 587, the Babylonians and their Egyptian allies defeated Judah and sent many of the Hebrews as captives to Babylon, beginning the 50 year long “Babylonian Exile”.
As an attempt to explain why God would suddenly turn from his Chosen leader and allow not only the death of that leader, but the subsequent defeat Judah and the exile of many of it’s citizens, the “D” source was “updated” to include a Mushite priestly interpretation of the tragic and unexpected turn of events. This was accomplished in two steps; first in an act of forgery, the original author of “D” went back to the original text and added verses that prophesied the coming defeat and exile as God’s punishment for the apostasy of the Hebrew people. They had worshipped other gods so Yahweh/Jehovah had no other option, but to seek retribution. The second step was the addition of two chapters to the end of Kings II, giving a new and uninspired, pessimistic ending. The theory that “D” was written by the prophet Jeremiah, a close friend and confident of Josiah and a devoted Mushite priest, is strongly supported by both literary and historical evidence.
With the defeat of the Babylonian by the Persians, in 538 BCE, the Persian emperor set the Hebrew captives free and allowed to return to Judah, a group did elect to remain in Babylon, where they had, in the best Jewish tradition, managed to establish themselves as successful business and professional people. By this time all the Mushite priests were either dead of old age or executed by the Persians as pro-Babylonian. The return of those Hebrew to Judah was, however, contingent upon a suitable “quisling” government being installed to control the populace of the Persian satrapy of Judah. This government was furnished by the Temple state set up by Ezra, the chief priest and spiritual leader (and a fervent Aaronoid) of the “Exilic” Hebrews.
In 458 BCE, Ezra returned to Jerusalem bringing two important documents with him. One was a letter from Artaxerxes I, the Persian emperor, granting him the right to set up the Temple State as the puppet state for the Persian emperor. The other was “The Torah of Moses”, believed by modern scholars to be the basic Old Testament from Genesis through Kings II, presented essentially as we know it today. This “Torah” was an incorporation of “JE”,”P”, and “D”. Evidence supports the contention that the combination of the original documents was either the work of Ezra or by a group of priests and scribes under his direction, probably in Babylon. By the time of this combination, the sources texts had been around for so long and were so well known that no part of them could be deleted or changed in any major way, and since by this time it was a tradition that they were all penned by an inspired Moses, they couldn’t, in the manner of the gospels, been laid out individually. A second consideration is that for them to continue as separate documents would have probably revived the old priestly rivalries and divided a community that was struggling to reestablish itself. The only viable solution was combining the three sources into a single document to promote unity and harmony, a job that was done very skillfully, although some stories (the Creation from “J” and “E” and Noah and the flood from “E” and “P”) are separated into the two original stories. The “D” source was simply stuck on the end of Numbers without so much as a transition statement.
Recent discoveries indicate that the four sources (J, E, P, D) should be expanded to include a “C” source (Chronicles I and II). This source was added probably shortly after the return from Babylon and is thought to have been written by Ezra himself, or under his direction. It presents another “Aaronoid” version of the Hebrew people, extolling the virtues and accomplishments of the mythical Solomon and the pro-Aaronoid Hezekiah, evidentially as propaganda to offset the pro-Mushite history of the “D” source that glorified the pro-Mushite Josiah in Kings I and II. It is easy to see how this method of combining the various original sources into a single volume resulted in the many redundancies, repetitions, doublets, disconnected stories and contradictions that are rife in the Old Testament.
The real story of biblical origin, who (or what group) wrote or caused the various sections to be written and why has been determined through thorough scholarship utilizing modern investigative techniques. It has been shown to have evolved through a coherent natural sequence of known historical events. We can no longer perceive the Old Testament as having been dictated by God to Moses and/or other inspired individuals. Current knowledge renders such belief as absurd to the point of silly!
More and more, the reliability and truthfulness of both the Old and New Testaments are being called to askance. The Old Testament give very little if any reliable historical testimony until after the Babylonian exile in 586 BCE and even though based upon earlier sources, as a whole, dates only from the re-establishment of the Jewish state in the fifth century; after the return from exile. Since there is much factual data in the Old Testament, it can not be taken seriously
“The Bible is in fact a very human book in all aspects. Its writers were reacting solely to the events of their day and in that setting. They were not writing for future generations as some Bible believers maintain. Now I can understand the importance of the Bible as an artifact or a curiosity. It may even have some historical significance, though limited. What I cannot understand is how any knowledgeable person can take it seriously.” – Louis Cable, “The First Bible”
“The First Bible” – Louis Cable
“Out of the Desert?” – William H., Stiebing
“Who Wrote the Bible?” – Richard E. Friedman
“The Disappearance of God” – Richard E. Friedman
“The History of Ancient Israel – M. Grant
B.S.J. Isserlin, The Israelites
“The bible unearthed” - Neil Asher Silberman and Israel Finklestein
“David and Solomon: In search of the Bibles Sacred Kings and the roots of Western Tradition” - Neil Asher Silberman and Israel Finklestein
“From Nomadism to Monarchy” - Neil Asher Silberman and Israel Finklestein