OT Stories - Myths,Legends, Parables, or Real
In discussions with Caposkia on his thread regarding his recommended book (New Atheist Crusaders) we have mutually agreed to open a discussion on the OT discussing reality versus myth for stories in the OT. My position is that the OT is largely myths and legends with little basis in reality. There may be stories that may be considered literature as Rook has suggested though it still incorporates myths and legends as well in my opinion. The intent is to examine major stories and discuss the mythical components versus the interpretations by Christians and Jews that these events were real. Caposkia has indicated in many of his posts that he agrees that some of the stories are reality based and in those areas I'm interested in understanding his reasoning or any other believer for acceptance versus others where he does not consider them to be. It may be there are a few where we may find agreement as to a story being a myth or it being real though my inclination is little more is reality based other than kingdoms existed in Palestine that were called Israel and Judah and they interacted with other nations in some fashion.
Since the basis of Christian beliefs started with creation and the fall of man we'll begin there and attempt to progress through Genesis in some sort of logical order sort of like Sunday School for those of you that went. I’m not particularly concerned about each little bit of belief in these stories but I’m more interested in the mythology aspects. We could for pages argue over original sin or free will but that isn’t even necessary in my opinion as the text discredits itself with blatant assertions and impossibilities. Instead consider for example Eve is created in one version from Adam’s rib which can be directly compared to the Sumerian goddess of the rib called Nin-ti which Ninhursag gave birth to heal the god Enki. Other comparisons can be made to the Sumerian paradise called Dilmun to the Garden of Eden as well. These stories predate the OT by thousands of years and tell the tale of the ancient Annuna gods that supposedly created the world. Visit www-etcsl.orient.ox.ac.uk/# for more information and some of the translated stories, click on corpus content by number or category.
In order for salvation through Christ from our supposed sins against the God the events of Genesis must have occurred in some fashion. If the Genesis stories are largely mythical or they are simply a parable then this basis is poorly founded and weakens the entire structure of Christian belief. Caposkia claims I error at square one because I don't acknowledge a spiritual world. I suggest that he and other followers error by accepting that which there is no detectable basis. This is done by interpreting parables and myths by the ancients to be more than inadequate understanding by unknowing people that looked for an answer to why things were in the world they observed.
In Genesis 1 is the supposed creation of the world by God. In this account illogical explanations start immediately with the description of the Earth being without form and darkness was upon it. Light is then created and explained as day and night. Next God molded his creation into better detail by creating Heaven above meaning the sky and waters on the earth. He then caused dry land to appear calling it the Earth and the waters the Seas. On this same day he created vegetation with the requirement that it bring forth after its kind by duplication through seeds. The following day he created the heavenly bodies to divide day from night and to be signs for seasons and for years. He made the great light to rule the day and the lesser light the night as well as all the stars. On the 5th day he created all the life in the seas and air with the requirement they reproduce after their own kind. The 6th day he created all the land animals including man both male and female. The gods in this case made man after their image as male and female in their own likeness. He commanded them to multiply and replenish the earth.
Problems start with this account immediately. The Earth according to science is leftover material from the forming of our star, the Sun. This material would have been a glowing mass of molten material. The land in any event would emerge first before water could exist as a liquid upon it due to the extreme heat. Light would already exist in the form of the Sun which according to current science is not as old as other stars in our galaxy not to mention in the Universe. The account mentions that day and night were made but this is not so except for a local event on the planet. An object not on the Earth would have no such condition or a different form of night and day. The account further errors in claiming the Sun, Moon, and stars were all formed following the creation of the Earth. In theories of planet formulation the star is formed first and planets afterwords. In the case of the moon multiple theories occur though not one where it zapped into the Universe suddenly. The statement that the heavenly bodies were created for signs and seasons is more evidence of a legend. The other planets and stars are purposeful in ways that aid in life existing or continuing to do so on Earth. Jupiter for example is a great big vacuum cleaner sucking into its gravitational field all sorts of debris that could eradicate life on Earth. Is this then a design by the god or just part of the situation that helped to allow life to progress as it did on the Earth? The observation of specific planets or stars in specific areas of the sky is just that, an observation no more and not placed there by a god to indicate the change of seasons.
One can also see some similarity between Genesis 1 and the Egyptian creation myth Ra and the serpent, see http://ccat.sas.upenn.edu/~humm/Resources/StudTxts/raSerpnt.html . In this myth Ra is the first on the scene and he creates all the creatures himself doing so before he made the wind or the rain. Ra does not create man but the gods he created gave birth to the people of Egypt who multiplied and flourished.
Some Jewish sects as well as Catholic belief allow for evolution to have been the method for creation of life on Earth. This however is in contradiction to Genesis in that all vegetation and animals were to reproduce only after their own kind. If this is so, then evolution is not compatible with the creation story. Simply put the life could not alter and produce different versions not after its kind. Since obvious examples exist for variation in species such as evolution even as simple as fish in caves without eyes or color versus those that are in streams outside there is obvious adaption thus discrediting this part of Genesis as myth.
The creation of man in Genesis 1 also suggests multiple gods as man was created in their likeness male and female thus following Canaanite gods such as Yahweh and his Asherah or Ba'al and Athirat that may be a reflection of an older tradition from either Egypt or Sumer. Genesis 2 on the other hand has a slightly different version from a variant I'll discuss in a later post.
I consider Genesis 1 to be a myth, legend or a parable based on all the problems discussed with basis in ancient stories from Sumer and Egypt. I leave it to Caposkia and other believers to indicate where they accept parts of Genesis 1 as reality and to indicate their reasoning if they do so.
"I guess it's time to ask if you live under high voltage power transmission lines which have been shown to cause stimulation of the fantasy centers of the brain due to electromagnetic waves?" - Me
"God is omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent, - it says so right here on the label. If you have a mind capable of believing all three of these divine attributes simultaneously, I have a wonderful bargain for you. No checks please. Cash and in small bills." - Robert A Heinlein.
The Book of Judges Part 3
Part 3 Samson
Judges 13 begins with the ever present and the children of Israel did EITSOTL and he gave them up to the Philistines for 40 years. In response, the god sends an angel to the wife of Manoah of the tribe of Dan telling her she would have a son that would be a Nazarite. He would never taste of the vine or unclean things from the womb until his death. The angel comes again and appears to the wife and she gets her husband. They offer a burnt offering to the god and the angel ascended in the flame off the altar. She gives birth to a son she calls Samson.
The tales of Samson are basically the Hebrew version of the Greek hero Herakles with many similarities.
Samson wants a wife of the Philistines of the city of Timnath. Her name isn’t given, which is always a suspicious thing in the Bible.
women weren't regarded as important in the bloodline. nothing to be suspicious about. Think of the time it was written.
When a chapter and a half involve a character, you’d think they could at least have a name. Anyway en route to Timanth he kills a lion by ripping it into. This is a similar event to Herakles and the lion of Nemea.
the stories might be related by retellings over time.
Samson is an interesting character for a Judge of Israel. He follows emotion, lust and desire as evidenced by his choice of women, his gambling, his hot temper, and his recklessness. Does this make him more real or is it in the same context as the Greek heroes & gods? One doesn’t have to look far to see the Greek gods were petty and emotional and Samson is cast of the same sort.
He attends a feast in honor of his wedding to the unnamed Philistine woman where he tells a riddle as a bet. If they can answer he will pay them each 30 sheets and 30 changes of clothes. The riddle was: “Out of the eater came forth meat. And out of the strong came forth sweetness.” The 30 companions at the feast could not decipher the riddle after 3 days so they threaten Samson’s wife. In fear of her life she gets Samson to tell her the answer which she gives to the blackmailers. They tell the answer to Samson, “What is sweeter than honey? And what is stronger than a lion?” He knew right away they got it from her.
Now consider this, do bees build a nest of honeycomb in a dead animal’s carcass? Why not? Simply because the rotting flesh would ruin the beeswax and honey causing it to spoil. The answer to the riddle given does not fit. What does?
And so the spirit of the Lord came on Samson so he went to Ashkelon and killed 30 innocent men taking their garments and gave them to the 30 who answered the riddle. He then went to see his wife but was informed she had been given to another. Her father offers him her younger sister. He storms out enraged. He caught 300 foxes and tied them tail to tail in pairs attaching a firebrand in the middle. He turns them loose in the fields of the Philistines. The Philistines are angered and demand who did this wanton act of vandalism. And they learn it was Samson because his wife was given to another. So the Philistines seize her and her father and burnt them. Samson in turn takes further revenge by killing a great many in a mass slaughter.
So the god takes advantage of Samson’s emotional instability to wreak havoc among the Philistines. The god came upon Samson to entice him into murder and mayhem of innocent men of another town. There’s no way to cover up the god did this act, at least according to the story of Samson he gets the credit though it’s typical of avoidance of responsibility for one’s own actions and further indicates the mental & emotional instability of the man.
so God is a puppet master and there really is no free will? Doesn't sound like that's what's happening to me.
After his actions destroying the fields of the Philistines they went to the territory of Judah and made camp with the intention of seizing Samson. The men of Judah not his own tribe of Dan went to the Philistines to determine why they had come as a war party to their territory. They were told by the Philistines of their intention to bring Samson to justice for all of the evil he had done against them. 3000 of the men of Judah then went to Samson to bind him and turn him over to the Philistines who were in fact their rulers at the time. As Samson had committed murder of innocent men and very significant property damage his incarceration and eventual execution should have been the result. Lawlessness as exhibited by Samson if unchecked would destroy a society, peace treaties, and mutual cooperation. Yet, the story continues with the intent that these actions were what the god wanted Samson to do and were justice in effect for enslavement by the evil Philistines.
I will try to read more carefully and see if i can find your "God puppet master" claim. Sounds to me as if his actions were justified due to his wifes father giving her away to someone else. (temporary insanity plea)
So the men of Judah bound Samson with 2 new cords and gave him over to the Philistines. When he has been handed over to the Philistines to face justice for his crimes the Philistines no doubt joyous at the capture of this serial killer shouted at him. The spirit of the god then came upon him such that he tore loose from the bonds as if they were burnt away. He grasped the jawbone of an ass and killed 1,000 of the Philistines. After he had completed his eradication of the posse of Philistines he was extremely thirsty, swinging and smashing 1,000 men left him in need of Gatorade. The god then sent forth a stream of water from the jaw to replenish him.
Since this is the view of history from the perspective of Judah/Israel it is clear they saw all of Samson’s violence and serial killing as a freedom fighter or resistance leader. The other side however saw him as a murderer and a criminal. As the Israelites were invaders of the land regardless of promises to ancient patriarchs the Philistines in some ways were fully justified in their methods. That the Philistines also had invaded the land as well in the sea peoples invasion is not a consideration. The Philistines had displaced Egyptian influence and Canaanites not Israelites therefore I don’t personally see Samson as a legitimate resistance leader. He also exhibited his violence in pursuit of his own selfish agenda and as such was very far from being a holy man of Israel. In that regard he was as many of the Greek gods who exhibited selfish wanton acts upon mankind.
Samson next goes to Gaza and solicits a whore whom he engages. The people of Gaza heard the serial killer Samson was in their city and planned to seize him at the gate in the morning. Samson finished up with the hooker around midnight and ripped the gates off the city carrying them to the top of a hill near Hebron.
Again, this shows Samson is little more than an ancient version of Bonnie & Clyde or any of the 1930s gangs of vicious criminals. He looked after his needs with a whore and then in his desire to not face justice destroyed the gates of Gaza in his escape.
Samson continues to give in to his weakness for Philistine women and falls into lust for a woman named Delilah. The Philistines when then learn of Samson’s latest infatuation go to Delilah offering her a fortune as a reward if she can learn where his great strength originates and further how he can be captured. She tries many times to learn the origin and he tells her fictitious answers. There are 3 accounts of this and 3 times the Philistines attempt to seize him. Since Samson seemed to lose all normal thinking around women when she continued to make demands he eventually tells her the truth that it was his unshaven hair which had never been cut. So Delilah sleeps with him again and has his hair cut. This time when he is seized the strength of the god has left him because he had a haircut. In a brilliant move after he has been captured the Philistines blinded him such that even if he got his great strength back he would not be so formidable.
The Philistines held a celebration to their god Dagon who they believed delivered the murderer Samson to them. During the celebration the crowd desired Samson to be brought out so they could be entertained and see the evil one who had killed so many of their nation. He is brought out and tied between 2 pillars. The place had about 3,000 men & women of the Philistines gathered under the roof of the structure. Samson’s hair had begun to grow back by the time this occurred. He prayed to his god asking for strength such that he could take revenge on them for the loss of his eyesight. He then grasped the two main pillars that were the main load bearing pillars and pushed with all his might bringing down the house on more than he had murdered throughout his life. Afterwords his father and relatives took his body to be buried in Zorah & Eshtaolin. He had judged Israel for 20 years.
And what a pious judge he had been. He was self centered, emotional, given to pursuit of his lust of women. When he didn’t get his way, he took retribution against innocent people. He sounds like a real upstanding person that he should have the power to make decisions as a judge of Israel. I consider this story to be as mythical as many others of the period such as Herakles and Hercules. Perhaps there were very strong men and they did mighty deeds or committed heinous acts (such as serial murder) but that is insufficient to take this story as anything other than a Hebrew version of an ancient hero complete with exaggeration and glorification.
A detailed comparison of Samson and Herakles by H. Steinthal
See - http://www.masseiana.org/legend_of_samson.htm
Sure it sounds like a tall tale. Johnny Appleseed was such as well, but the guy actually existed. Much about him was greatly exaggerated just as I'm assuming many of those numbers are as well. I'm sure he probably had great strength. What in history would suggest that this story did not happen?
I'll have to read the link when I have time to sit down and take it in. Thank you