Sunday, December 09, 2007

How Not to Read the Bible, Part 7
From the New York Times review:
Modern scholars have also unmoored many of the most beloved stories in Genesis and Exodus. These tales are now viewed as etiological — that is, they were invented to explain how the world got to be the way it is. In this reading, the conflict between Jacob and Esau isn’t a true story of sibling rivalry but an account of why, at the time the story was written down, the Israelites had such hot and cold relations with the Edomites, a nearby tribe identified with Esau. Similarly, the “mark of Cain” that God places on Cain after he murders Abel, promising sevenfold vengeance for anyone who harms him, was probably a tale designed to highlight the brutality of the Kenites, Israel’s notoriously fierce neighbors.

So thousands of years from now, we discover stories involving Israelis and Palestinians and disputes over land in the Middle East. Are stories about Yassir Arafat made up to explain Israeli-Arab conflicts?

Now, Moses may have added details that were of interest. But that doesn't necessitate that they were made up.


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