Saturday, December 08, 2007

How Not to Read the Bible, Part 6
Kugel points out the Bible’s plagiarism from earlier, non-Israelite sources: laws nicked from Hammurabi; chunks of the Noah flood story lifted from the Epic of Gilgamesh; prophecies of Ezekiel inspired by Middle Eastern temples. He even implicates the Ten Commandments, which were apparently derived in part from ancient Hittite treaties.

First, a general thing. If the Bible uses literary and other forms known or familiar to its audience, so what? Moses should have written in completely unfamiliar categories?

Secondly, Hittite treaties. There was a time when Bible critics disbelieved the Hittites ever existed and held that against the Bible. So if the Torah is borrowing from the Hittites, that would be evidence that the Torah is much older than the Documentary Hypothesis posits (400 BC last I read).

In regards to Gilgamesh, why must we assume that the flood stories of Noah are copied from Gilgamesh? Why can't it be the other way around? In fact, Gilgamesh helps establish that there was a flood universal in nature. (At least universal in its extent on the human race.)

From a webpage which touches on this:
data to support a universal flood would not be limited to geophysical data (which is what I understood your comment to be referring to it)...

By far and away, the most reliable sources of information we have about life on Earth are LITERARY, MATERIAL, and ICONOGRAPHIC--not geological.

LITERARY information shows up in universal flood traditions--spanning all cultures (except Egypt so far) from China to Hawaii(!!) to Native America to the Ancient Near East (138 recorded in the first half of this century);
MATERIAL remains are those artifacts of culture (e.g. weapons, cooking items, economic artifacts, etc.) that we find--in the case of a flood, about all you would expect here would be evidence of the boat maybe; and
ICONOGRAPHCIC evidence is similar to literary, but pictoral or image-based--in the case of a flood, this would show up as maybe inscriptions/monuments (part of the 138 accounts mentioned above) or the Chinese ideographs.

Let me touch on the main problem with this quoted section. Any time there is borrowing, the author of this book assumes that means the underlying Biblical text is not genuine and derivative. As I tried to show above, similarities do not necessarily show that the Bible is inauthentic. Again, the problem is not giving the Bible any benefit of the doubt.

Also, when people point to similarities they barely ever point to differences. For instance, the Noah flood is less elaborate than the Gilgamesh epic if memory serves. So if there was borrowing (and I'm inclined to believe the Gilgamesh epic is spruced up historical memories), why does it always have to flow from pagan sources to the Hebrew? If you don't want to believe in the Bible, you will be inclined to want it to go in that direction. But that doesn't mean that explanation is the best fit for the evidence.

similarities vs. differences

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