The Spartan Bible for theists
In our last episode Rocky and Bullwinkle were tumbling down ... Sorry wrong series.
The last time I was speculating on the OT origins I was making the case there is no evidence for anything older than the Greek Septuagint. I was pointing out just how close the library at Alexander was to bibleland. I since realized there is a simpler narrative.
The Septuagint first appears in Alexandria. There was an enclave in the city of people from the eastern Med. Ex-phoenicians whose last empire vanished in the Punic wars. People from Palestine, a land ruled by Egypt only a few centuries earlier. People moved rather freely among the parts of empire left by Alexandria when they weren't fighting each other. These people all came to speak Greek as the common tonuge vice their native Aramaic. (Recall there is no evidence "hebrew" was ever a spoken language and it is written in Aramaic script and other points indicating it is an artificial language.)
We are quite familiar with the stories the ancients created about their gods and how they differed from factual stories which mentioned gods. It was the same difference we observe today. If gods, the supernatural, demons, vampires and whatever are portrayed in a story as literally interfering in the events of the story it was intended as fiction and was read as fiction -- at least by the educated. They were judged by their merit as stories. If they were inspired it was by a muse. On the other hand if a god interfered in a figurative sense, such as Athena brought victory rather than Athena destroyed the enemy troops, it was considered to be fact. Today we do the same. Recall the movie Patton. He prayed, he thanked, but there is no hint angels appeared to slay the Germans.
Applying this distinction which is consistent throughout ancient literature we can see the stories found in the OT were created as fiction, were intended to be read as fiction and the people who read them did in fact consider them to be fiction. On the other hand we can consider the readers of the OT stories to be uniquely dull and stupid in comparison to the Greeks, Egyptians, Romans, Babylonians and all the rest. The former is most reasonable.
Now that we have works of fiction written in Greek that were entertaining as fiction, what kind of stories are they? They all seem to talk about what happens when people turn away from their traditional gods and worship other gods of which Alexandria had broad assortment to sample. On subset of these stories is what happened to them the last time they were in Egypt and what they had to go through to get out.
This is the style of the cautionary tale. While we think of it as primarily a Latin style a large fraction of Twilight Zone eps, the recent Outer Limits, and perennial series' like Ghosts are our popular form of the cautionary tale. The OT stories warn against turning away or you will suffer, even the greatest kings suffered. They were entertaining stories.
But how would Greeks get involved with the local religions in their eastern empire? They did. Consider the Books of Maccabe.
We have a few odd points. According to Maccabe the chief priest Jonathan was a blood relative of the Spartans. The bible stories first appear in history in Greek in Alexandria. The invented language of Hebrew is not only written is not only written in Aramaic script but the Hebrew appears to be an odd amalgam of Aramaic and Greek. And of course the Judeans and their odd Yahweh cult does not appear until after the Greeks rule the region and there is no mention of their conquest by Alexander.
The civilized, Greekified if you will, Palestinians and the ayatollahs fought a civil war and Maccabes reports the ayatollahs won. But when Pompey arrives Herod claims descent from the Maccabes while the Spartan related priests have control of Jerusalem. Something happened in between causing the Herods to lose control of Jerusalem in favor of the Greekified Palestinians. They have become so Greek they have intermarried with the Spartans or may have even come from Sparta and grew the cow town of Jerusalem into a walled city and created a rich history for it by means of the Septuagint.
Without considering the Septuagint and the major enclave in Alexandria these passages where the high priest asserts kinship with Sparta does not make a lick of sense. The Greek word used don't come across in this font but it starts with genoxxxx. It indicates a true blood relationship. The words kin and brother are used. In English brother can also mean close friends that Greek word cannot have that alternate meaning. Also a letter to Rome is mentioned which is to accomplish the same thing but merely mentions friendship, roughly the same words without blood relative being mentioned.
How did a blood relationship develop? It is not outlandish. A rich Spartan man marries a Judean woman from a wealthy family of priests. Their children are Spartans by their father and Judeans by their mother. A little gold would go along way to buying into the lucrative job of chief priest. This is pure speculation. I include so the idea is not rejected without thinking about it.
On another note I have mentioned that the evidence for Astarte worship shows the Judeans were not monotheists. In saying that I did not start at the beginning but rather went to a consequence of their polytheism.
When it is pointed out to someone today that the words translated as Lord God are Yahweh Elohim, Yahweh of the Gods, they consider it a curiosity and still have no problem believing the Judeans were monotheists. Let us make an analogy to Christianity with all of its bibles and prayers and hymn in English for English speakers. If EVERY instance of god was was replaced by gods no Christian would be considered a monotheist nor would they consider themselves monotheists.
This is exactly the circumstance of anyone reading the OT stories. All 2700+ usages of Elohim are plural. There is no usage of Yahweh in a context of a singular god, an El. When Elohim stansd alone the people who read these stories read gods plural with no more possibility of understanding sigular than an English speaker could read godS as singular.
But I just switched languages, from the Greek where it is singular to the Hebrew plural which believers say is authoritative and the original. The Greeks invented monotheism?
If the Greek is the translation it converted the plural gods of the Hebrew version into a singular god.
Or if the Greek is the original it was simply talking about a fictional god for its fiction but the SPARTAN high priest made it more acceptable to the Judeans by changing it to the plural gods they were more comfortable with.
And a third note while I am here. If believers reject the entire Septuagint digression then they must deal with Esdras, Believers can believe anything but if they are modern believers then they will have a problem with such a late date for the inspiration to invent almost the entire OT. But this is what Esdras recounts. All of the law had been lost due to Babylon and a bunch of scribes decided they were going to get inspired and some 40 days later they had recreated every word that had been lost. And then they wrote it down in Aramaic script which is also what we call the Hebrew script.
Remember. In all of the above I am claiming is what I write makes more sense than religious traditions invented by unknown people that appeared out of no where for unknown reasons.
Jews stole the land. The owners want it back. That is all anyone needs to know about Israel. That is all there is to know about Israel.