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I Need Help Reasoning Things


dB-Paradox
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I would like help from anyone, as many as can offer wise help. I don't want to be a hater just because, and I don't want to sound like I'm defending the faith, because I'm definitely not! (Okay, maybe I am a little....but just for the sake of not being a hater.) BUT, I was thinking about all the borrowed myths used by the Israelites in the bible, particularly in Genesis, and would like to run a few things past you and have some ideas bounced around. I'm thinking things through to be as wise and as fair as I possibly can. I'm basically playing devil's advocate in my mind to see what makes sense and what does not. So, if anyone's game, please help me out!

 

Starting with creation myths, we have many. Did the ancient Israelites borrow from the stories of Enlil and An, or the other way around? "Sin" myths. Did the Israelites borrow from others, or were they borrowed from the Israelites? What about very long aged man, pre-flood. Borrowed from Sumerian myth, or the other way around? The flood myth is a popular myth in many cultures. Did the Israelites borrow from The Epic Of Gilgamesh or the other way around? What about the rain goddess, Nuah? Borrowed from the story of Noah, or was Noah a later form of Nuah? By now, you get the idea. Which myths were "original".

 

While it seems likely that a this culture borrowed from that culture, and that culture from this culture, I'm wondering if we've gone too far in trying to discredit the bible as being full of plagiarisms. As a Christian, I would have said that all creation myths originated from Adam and Eve, all flood myths from Noah's ark and so forth. In short, I would have spouted that all pagan myths were copying the Israelites...diverging from their stories, and creating stories of their own, with their own slant. Now, as an atheist, I've been looking at the bible not as the origin of these different myths, but as a copy of them. But is it really wise to reverse the thinking and look at the bible as plagiarized literature?

 

I hope my request hasn't been too confusing. My writing does not always articulate what I am thinking, feeling, or accurately reflect what I want to say. But if anyone wants to help me play this game of trying to reason things through, I would appreciate it.

 

Oh, and on a side note, what does everyone think about the origin of the name "Israelites"? Is it a combination of three gods....Isis + Ra + El? Isis and Ra are Egyptian gods, while El is a Canaanite deity. Being that the Israelites were probably a mixed group of Egyptians and Canaanites, it makes sense to me. Thoughts on this also?

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If you haven't read any Joseph Campbell, perhaps he would interest you. He wrote a lot about myths and how we all seem to need them. I can't explain his theories, but Wikipedia can help me out!

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Starting with creation myths, we have many. Did the ancient Israelites borrow from the stories of Enlil and An, or the other way around? "Sin" myths. Did the Israelites borrow from others, or were they borrowed from the Israelites? What about very long aged man, pre-flood. Borrowed from Sumerian myth, or the other way around? The flood myth is a popular myth in many cultures. Did the Israelites borrow from The Epic Of Gilgamesh or the other way around? What about the rain goddess, Nuah? Borrowed from the story of Noah, or was Noah a later form of Nuah? By now, you get the idea. Which myths were "original".

How did we arrive at these ideas?

 

It's simple really. You create a time line. It's boring but everyone skips this part. Go to Wikipedia and look up the Sumerians or any of those other guys. Jot down when they lived and when those other stories where written or at least the latest copies showed up. You'll find 3000=2000 BCE (I'm ball-parking). Now. Just go to the bible and figure out when the Israelites show up. Got that? Depending on which way you did your math you'll see they didn't come around until maybe 1500-1200 BCE (ball-park). So if we have old Moses writing any of this down which stories came first? Which stories HAD to come first? Not the Israelites.

 

Now go on to the other dates with how they only wrote the stories coming back from Babylon and your well down to around the ~700-600's BCE. The redactions that took place over the next few hundred years and the additions to Daniel in the Maccabean period (2nd century BCE).

 

Who borrowed from who? There were no Israelites and no Hebrew language until a good number of these stories were etched into stone (okay pressed into mud). The Hebrew stories make no mention of the "Babylonian" ideas until *after* the Jews (not Israelites) return from Babylon. Then concepts that existed in Babylonian culture appear in Jewish culture. The influence goes one direction. The mention of the king of Babylon worshiping the Jewish king in the bible is evidenced in a cylinder that was made by the same king except, and this is the big exception, the cylinder has the Babylonian god in place of the Jewish god. Same essential story but the Jews altered it to fit their world view with their god. Just like the removal of Asherah from the texts (though the figurine is one of the most plentiful found even in the Jewish time line though it should not be if they had done away with such things and blaming them on "pagans" does not work since that would make for too many pagans...pagans everywhere). It demonstrates that the "prophets" were correct that the Jews never really were all that "into" this one god business.

 

While it seems likely that a this culture borrowed from that culture, and that culture from this culture, I'm wondering if we've gone too far in trying to discredit the bible as being full of plagiarisms. As a Christian, I would have said that all creation myths originated from Adam and Eve, all flood myths from Noah's ark and so forth. In short, I would have spouted that all pagan myths were copying the Israelites...diverging from their stories, and creating stories of their own, with their own slant. Now, as an atheist, I've been looking at the bible not as the origin of these different myths, but as a copy of them. But is it really wise to reverse the thinking and look at the bible as plagiarized literature?

As I said above you likely would have claimed it but the time line would have been your enemy. Anachronisms exist in the bible (which people try to gloss over and hand-waive away) that are explained by the copying of older texts but not having the grasp of the ideas in them. Moses leading the people into the desert to avoid the Philistines, which, didn't come along until after the Exodus should have happened (according to the most likely dates). So who are they avoiding? The "we don't exist here yets"? Only writing later, after the Philistines, does this begin to make sense but it ruins the time line for the Moses Exodus story.

 

Oh, and on a side note, what does everyone think about the origin of the name "Israelites"? Is it a combination of three gods....Isis + Ra + El? Isis and Ra are Egyptian gods, while El is a Canaanite deity. Being that the Israelites were probably a mixed group of Egyptians and Canaanites, it makes sense to me. Thoughts on this also?

It's been posited a lot but there's no real evidence for this that I've ever found.

 

mwc

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Thanks to the both of you. I'm going to check out Joseph Campbell. His work does sound interesting. mwc, I don't know you from a hole in the ground, but it sounds like you know your stuff! I think what you said is what I needed to hear. Evidence always trumps everything else, even if it flies in the face of testimony. I'm also going to be searching for a Naked Archaeologist episode on Joshua. I think he examines whether he was a myth or not. I'm curious to see what he has to say, and what evidence he brings forth. Should be interesting!

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By the way, this is the episode I'm looking for. If anyone has seen it, or know where I can find it, I would like to know what his conclusions are. Sounds like he feels pretty confident about his assertions. He even lays out the consequences of there not being a Joshua!

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Thanks to the both of you. I'm going to check out Joseph Campbell. His work does sound interesting. mwc, I don't know you from a hole in the ground, but it sounds like you know your stuff! I think what you said is what I needed to hear. Evidence always trumps everything else, even if it flies in the face of testimony. I'm also going to be searching for a Naked Archaeologist episode on Joshua. I think he examines whether he was a myth or not. I'm curious to see what he has to say, and what evidence he brings forth. Should be interesting!

I like to think I know what I'm talking about (I came to this site knowing little but have read volumes since that time) but since you don't know me from a hole in the ground take what I've said and look it all up for yourself. Here's just one link to the Cyrus Cylinder that I mentioned. It links to some other items of interest that relate to events found in the bible. I do emphasize some sort of time line because most anything is possible without a proper one. Just keep in mind chronologies are hard to determine for all things (just look up the eruption of Thera for an example of debates over this or the high and low chronologies of Egypt).

 

The Naked Archaeologist is, um, how can I put this? Shitty? It's more entertainment than scholarship. It's nice to see the pictures but he's alienated himself from most everyone through his treatment of the archaeological community and his fringe, or even crank, ideas and specious reasoning (ie. the Exodus Decoded nonsense and the Jesus Tomb crapfest). Atlantis is in Spain and in the Torah? Okay. I'm sure he'll have something to show for all this like all his other whack-job theories (and I'll probably watch the steaming pile too just to pick out the nuttier parts dammit). If you're truly interested in the show I know it still plays on History International (I haven't watched any of season 3 since he appears to be slowly going insane and it's painful to watch). If I had to pick I would say the best show in that series was the one on the Philistines. As I recall he didn't have his own pet theory but just let the experts do the talking.

 

mwc

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I think MWC nailed it so I can't really add to much TBH but I'll say this: I think another strong piece of evidence to consider is not only the timeline issues you have if you try to give the Jewish myths priority but also the fact that they culture was subservient for most of its history and thus would be more likely to import myths from the dominant culture that either controlled it or surrounded it (i.e. Egypt, Sumeria, Babylon et cetera)

 

As for the name Israel, a proper transliteration of the name would be "Yisrael" and Isis name in Egyptian would have been "A/Uset" or something like that so that combination probably wouldn't have worked (plus "Ra" more likely was "Re"). I think more than likely they just adopted Israel's name as the name of their people as the myth became popular among them. The Hebrew is ambiguous but basically means "God struggles/contends".

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If you haven't read any Joseph Campbell, perhaps he would interest you. He wrote a lot about myths and how we all seem to need them. I can't explain his theories, but Wikipedia can help me out!

I just purchased his 4 volume set called The Masks Of God as well as two other books! Thanks for the info!

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I think MWC nailed it so I can't really add to much TBH but I'll say this: I think another strong piece of evidence to consider is not only the timeline issues you have if you try to give the Jewish myths priority but also the fact that they culture was subservient for most of its history and thus would be more likely to import myths from the dominant culture that either controlled it or surrounded it (i.e. Egypt, Sumeria, Babylon et cetera)

 

As for the name Israel, a proper transliteration of the name would be "Yisrael" and Isis name in Egyptian would have been "A/Uset" or something like that so that combination probably wouldn't have worked (plus "Ra" more likely was "Re"). I think more than likely they just adopted Israel's name as the name of their people as the myth became popular among them. The Hebrew is ambiguous but basically means "God struggles/contends".

Thanks for the name translations. I was wondering how much credibility there would be (or would not be) to linking the names together to form one new name. It sounded almost like a Zeitgeist conspiracy! Ha!

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