In Bishop John Shelby Spong’s book, Re-Claiming the Bible for a Non Religious World, he cites the work of two professors, H. Graf and Julius Wellhausen, who began to analyze the literary style of the Bible. They came to the conclusion that the first books of the Bible were not only not the work of God, but they were authored by at least four different sects of the early Jewish religion. Spong writes:
Analyzing primarily the first five books of the Old Testament Professors Graf and Wellhausen discovered that there were many observable differences that could be discerned in the texts of the Torah itself. This discovery, in turn, led them to the conclusion that the Torah consisted of several strands woven together of what had once been independent material. One strand, for example, referred to God by the name Yahweh, or at least by an unpronounceable set of consonants that were written as YHWH. Where Yahweh was used as the name for God the text also called the holy mountain of the Jews Mount Sinai. There was another strand of the Torah that called God by the name of Elohim, and where that name was used for God, the holy mountain of the Jews was referred to as Mount Horeb. A third strand of Torah material reflected life in the Kingdom of Judah in the seventh century BCE, which well after the split between the Northern Kingdom and Judah and even after the Northern Kingdom had been destroyed by the Assyrians. Still another strand appeared to be dated during the time of the exile in the sixth century BCE after Judah had been defeated by the Babylonians and its people relocated to the land of Babylonia.
How interesting and how revealing! Through all of these millenia since the Torah was written, ordinary people believed that the Bible was a singular document penned by God. Some still do. Spong says that, because of the discoveries stated in the Wellhausen Hypothesis, ‘biblical scholarship has taken an enormous leap into modernity.’ Yet, few of the Bible literalists and evangelicals even know of this hypothesis, let alone would ‘believe’ such a theory to be true. There’s the rub!
Interestingly, that’s not all. Around the year 621 BCE a document was ‘discovered’ during a renovation of the temple. During the work of the renovation the workers found, perhaps hidden behind some of the plaster that was being torn away, a book that purported to be “a book of the law.” The book even claimed to have been written by Moses, who by this time had been dead for some six hundred years. The book, discovered by Hilkiah the high priest, was read to King Joshia and he rent his garment and fell to his knees at this ‘newly’ discovered document. Apparently kings can easily be duped by high priests. What the king did not know is that the document was freshly written by the high priests to make the religion more conservative with new laws and rituals. Today that is known as the book of Deuteronomy.
Shysters in the priestly class. [Again.]
As long as The People followed these new, more strict laws, ‘God’s favor’ would shine on the land. Further no destruction would not occur so long as King Josiah lived. A few years later, Josiah was killed on the battlefield of Megiddo by Pharaoh Necho of Egypt. Blamo! Either ‘God’ was away on a golf outing or The People were very naughty. As a result, off they went to Babylonia for a 3-generation captivity.
So that the would not lose their identity during the Babylonian captivity [as had the ‘lost tribes of the north,] the priests decided to further codify the laws- the laws, rules and customs of what it meant to be a Jew. Spong said, “These priestly editorial changes indicated that the mandates of Sabbath observance, kosher dietary laws and the requirement of circumcision for all the males of the tribe were now said to have been original parts of their covenant with God. Then into the Torah they wrote rules designed to govern every aspect of their common life. This was a monumental revision, but when it was complete the nature of Judaism had been set, not in stone, but in literal scriptures.”
Editors of the Bible. Imagine that. By the way, because of these new laws, earlier parts of the Torah had to be amended including a new seven-day creation story- the one where Adam’s rib remained in his body. New set of commandments, too- the newly formulated ‘Sabbath Day’ had to now be included in those stone tablets.
My, my, the word of man sure has undergone lots of changes, revisions and additions as the book grows in size and importance.
One of the long-time contributors to this blog asked my what I hoped to gain through this investigation of the Bible. The short answer is: the truth. The truth about a book deigned ‘holy’ and ‘inspired by God.’ A book that has caused much pain, suffering and death through its misuse and misunderstanding. That’s what I hope to achieve- the truth about the Bible. And in doing so, you and I will have some information the next time some Bible-thumping literalist attempts to foist his or her idiocy upon The People because ‘the Bible says so.’