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Early Jewish History

Wed May 31, 2000 4:03 am

Dear Egroupers, especially Ralph!

I'm perhaps the newest member of the group - actually starting just today - but reading the very first contribution I've received puts me immediately into motion. Ralph, I'm sorry, it's stimulating, I mean all those seeming congruences between ancient Egyptian history and what's chronicled in the Books of Moses, but it's no good. I played around with such ideas myself maybe one, two years ago till I was wised up … as must practically every one.

The proposition that Judaism has existed for some 3500 years is pure myth. Among the very first Jews, Ezra, a fellow living in the late sixth, better the fifth century B.C.E. (= before the common era), assumes a position of prominence, for he belonged to those who *created* the Jew's Old Testament and *invented* the persons we associate with the so-called `Books of Moses.'

There was never an Abraham, Isaac, Jacob. Joseph never traveled to Egypt. There was no exodus from Egypt, nor did Saul, David or Solomon ever exist, etc. That is to say, we must knock off something in the neighborhood of one millennium from the time span traditionally allotted the Jews.

(Add to this the fact that the Judaism we know today replete with the Rabbi and the Rabbinate came into existence only in the course of the sixth/seventh century of our common era and you have before you a religion - Judaism - that POST-dates Christianity and is contemporary with the rise of Islam! And as for Zionism, it's little more than a century, hardly a matter of any seriousness!)

Setting forth such pronouncements presupposes solid evidence. I'll list several sources to which you, Ralph, and others of your persuasion may turn,

Writing in 1994 (The Sacred Chain; a History of the Jews, HarperCollins), Norman Cantor, a highly regarded professor of History, Sociology and Comparative Literature at New York University, declared "But until the glorious day dawns of archaeological verification for the line of Abraham, we have to stipulate that all of Jewish history of the first millennium B.C.E. [= Before the Common Era] and some of it for a century or two after that, as told in the Bible, is one of the great masterpieces of imaginative fiction or artfully contrived historical myths of all time. From empirical evidence, it did not happen."

But the matter goes much further. The faculty for Theology in the University of Copenhagen, Denmark, has become a moving center in the reevaluation of the Jew's past. Of decisive importance is the work "The Bible in History; How Writers Create a Past," by Thomas L. Thompson, published (in Europe) by Jonathan Cape, London, 1999. And for the few who can read German, Thompson's colleague, Niels Peter Lemche, has written, "Die Vorgeschichte Israels" (= The Prehistory of Israel), Stuttgart: Kohlhammer, 1996.

Both of the named works contain relevant bibliographies from which to pursue the matter further, but let me add yet another source, Jacob Neusner, one of the most honored and bitterly hated, genuine authorities on Judaism. Here follows his assertion in the `Journal of Higher Criticism,' III, Spring 1996, p. 47-48 printed under the title,`The Higher Criticism in the Study of Formative Judaism,'

"...if we can prove a given idea announced in a sixth century document also was maintained by some one in the first century, then what we may actually know as fact is that said idea is not originally rabbinic but has been appropriated for their own purposes by rabbis later on... If something is early, then it is not rabbinic unless we can show that the Judaism we call rabbinic was fully worked out in institutions and ideas in the time of Jesus. And if it is rabbinic, then it cannot be early, until it can be shown that it was; but then, it is not rabbinic ... No single, unitary, Orthodox Judaism exercised hegemony in antiquity, DOWN TO THE SEVENTH CENTURY... there is no evidence that a secure oral tradition conveyed sentences standing on their own from the first century to the third or fifth or fifteenth for the matter... Whenever we come across synagogues the decoration violates rules in the Talmud; diverse writings contradict each other on fundamental questions; common denominator Judaism reduces messy reality to sanitized fantasy."

What I've set forth here will surely come as a shock to many and may engender enemies, but we must nevertheless adjust our investigations into the past accordingly.

Leaving matters monotheistic behind me at this juncture, let me point out a subject that concerns me mightily, Pantheism … possibly as Christianity's replacement in the course of the century before us. Would anyone in the egroups list be interested, as an example, willing to read what I dish out and respond to it?

In the hope of Gaia's patience with us and with Cosmic greetings,


Re:Early Jewish History 2 Wed May 31, 2000 12:34 pm

Dear Mike,

You are right in many respects. Contemporary Judaism did not exist 3,500 years ago, much was made up during the Persian captivity and much has been added since. Religion, like all of man's endevours is a fluid and maleable subject, it has fashions and phases, convulsions and stability. Of course what we see now is not what was practised 3,000 years ago, a closer `religion' is probably Masonry, but that too has changed out of all recognition.

Having said that, I do not believe your assumption that the Old Testament is all fiction. There is clear evidence from the New Testament, the Nag Hammadi library and the Dead Sea Scrolls that Old Testament writings were an ancient feature, even if the earliest full Torah is only a thousand years old or so.

The reason that people have begun to think that the Talmud is a recent invention, is that they could not find any historical justification for anything in the Old Testament, only NOW is the thuth comming out.

Regards Ralph Ellis

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