The Human Truth Foundation

The Bible's History Books Covering 1100-950 BCE

https://www.humanreligions.info/bible_history_books.html

By Vexen Crabtree 2023

#bible_history #christianity #the_bible

This is a few-paragraphs' introduction to each of the books in the Christian Bible that they group as the 'History Books', mostly taken from the Jewish Nevi'im canon (and a few taken from the Ketuvim). In the Protestant Bible, there are 12 history books, and their copy of Esther is short. Catholic Bibles have 16 books, adding Tobit, 1 and 2 Maccabees (and Esther is kept in its full text). Eastern Orthodox bibles are a few books longer, including 3 and 4 Maccabees.

For many centuries, Christians 'took it for granted' that the bulk of the historical text in the Bible was accurate, and conveyed directly by God to Israelite priests and authors, who wrote it down1. They held that Samuel and Jeremiah themselves wrote the history books1. But it became clear that much of the text was written many hundreds of years after the stories they tell, and battles, towns and movements did not occur in the way that the authors contend. Starting with the American Congregationalist minister Edward Robinson, a long series of archaeological and historical researchers have found contradictory evidence, and the vast majority of the historical information is now know to be not just widely wrong, but often so wild as to be clearly fabricated inventions, written for the purpose of teaching theological lessons and generating communal spirit, rather than for the purpose of recording history2.3,4,5,6,7


Yehoshua / Joshua / Josue / Lesous

#biblical_morals #genocide #history #joshua

Moses passes leadership of the Hebrew exiles to Joshua and they invade and take the land of Canaan. This book is primarily a book about military battles and victories of the Hebrews (chapter 1 to 12) and the division of the land (ch. 13-24), with very little religious content.8. Its primary moral ethic seems to be a realpolitik "you'd better be on the winning side". Mass genocide is embraced in Joshua 10:10-11, 6:21,24, 8:24-29, 10:28-32, 10:34-40, 11:6-17,21 with no sense of sadness, regret or pain on behalf of the killers. Slavery is endorsed in Joshua 9:21-27 and in Joshua 15:16-17 the daughter of Caleb is given to her own cousin as a wife as a reward for Caleb's victory in taking a city.

Scholars and historians consider it to be factually untrue: It refers to towns that didn't yet exist6,7, battles and depopulations for which there's no historical evidence6, and despite the Egyptians (and others) keeping records of what went on in Canaan, no-one seems to notice Israel's incursion. The archaeological evidence shows throughout the era steady growth in population numbers, with no sudden unexplained influx of new cultural material.3,4 The Hebrews grew up in Canaan; they never arrived by force7. This story was invented as a way of bringing people together9, and as an attempt to create a mythological history to explain why 12 Tribes of Israel lived in the place they did10.

For more, see:

Book of Judges (Shofetim)

#biblical_history #christianity #hebrew_scriptures #judaism #old_testament #the_bible

The Book of Judges was written and edited over a few hundred years by professional religious leaders of Canaan heritage who returned from Babylon. They brought them organisational skills and the ability to write, and wrote a history with the purpose of uniting Hebrew communities under a single religion, ruled by themselves. By the 7th11 or 6th12 centuries BCE the work was so revered and well known that no further editing was possible. It describes how the people of Canaan, God's chosen people, often strayed from their proper purpose, and had to be frequently punished. After suffering from God's punishment, a new Judge would be appointed to rule them - although all the appointees turned out to merely lead their people again into idolatry. Historical and archaeological evidence strongly refutes the purported historical details in Judges13. As two historians say, "theology, not history, is central" to its text11.

For more, see:

Rut / Ruth

#bible_history #the_bible

For over a thousand years, this was said to be written by Samuel14, but anachronistic and historical elements tell us that it was written five hundred of years after the events it makes out to describe14. The author is unknown15. It's a story about Ruth, a widow who goes with her mother-in-law Naomi, to Bethlehem, and works for and then marries a rich landowner. Critic Thomas Paine describes it harshly as "a strolling country-girl creeping slyly to bed with her cousin Boaz [but] it is, however, one of the best books in the Bible, for it is free from murder and rapine"15. She is one of the few women in the Bible who is depicted in a positive light; she is hard working and conscientious. An odd and simple story that lacks any moral, educational or even much religious content. The author may well have written as a pseudo-nationalistic fable, with little intent for it to become endorsed as a Holy book.

For more, see:

1 and 2 Samuel

#bible_history #christianity #the_bible

Due to its length, the Hebrew book Sepher Sh'muel was often split across two scrolls16, which from the 15th century17, led to the story becoming 1 Samuel and 2 Samuel. It was sometimes combined with Kings, Samuel then being 1 and 2 Kings/Kingdoms. Until historians examined the text, it was assumed by Christians to be written by Samuel himself, but few now still stick to that claim18. The stories told in Samuel 1 were passed down for hundreds of years before being written19, with the author describing some elements as "in ancient times". The text of Samuel continued to be edited up until the 5th century BCE17.

For more, see:

Melakhim (1st half) / 1 Kings / 3 Kingdoms

#bible_history #the_bible

The Hebrew book Sepher M'lakhim was divided into two parts to become 1 Kings and 2 Kings of the Christian Bible20, after first being edited and combined with the Book of Shemuel to form the 3rd and 4th parts of a 4-part Book of Kingdoms. The oldest parts of Kings were written in the 7th century BCE21, but edits to it continued to be made for hundreds of years afterwards. The contents of these texts are largely religious argumentation phrased in terms of pseudo-history, and although the names of rulers seems to be preserved acurately22 archaeological evidence and other historical evidence has largely thrown much of the rest of the historical content of Kings into disrepute21.

1 Kings is about the decline and death of King David and the reign of Solomon, his son, and a dramatic description of the first temple. Historically, it is unreliable, with 1 Kings 11:3 in particular being 'too exaggerated to be true' compared to the archaeological evidence23. From chapter 12 we see two kingdoms emerge, Israel in the North, and Judah in the south. There are then various descriptions of military battles involving various kings, including many times when Judaistic monotheism was abandoned and older gods again embraced. 1 Kings was edited up until the 5th century BCE.24

For more, see:

Melakhim (2nd half) / 2 Kings / 4 Kingdoms

2 Kings sees a small cast of men deliver long set speeches on a few theological topics. They aren't talking to each other, but delivering long sermons to the reader, with a few bits of poorly constructed history thrown in as context. The historical errors and style of book gives away the fact that the author of 2 Kings is taking the chance to propound his religious and moral opinions, rather than actually attempting to accurately describe history as "contemporary Assyrian sources and modern archaeology show [...] quite a different historical reality"25. The main theological push is that if you trust in YHWH, any army could be defeated. If you sin, then, your armies will be defeated. So, in 2 Kings, the defeats of history are explained as having occurred because the people didn't follow the teachings of the current organized priesthood. It ends with the defeat of Judah and the beginning of the exile of some Jews into Babylon.

For more, see:

1 and 2 Chronicles

#bible_history #the_bible

The Books of Chronicles 1 and 2 are taken from the Jewish Ketuvim, and some say it consists of material that was left over when Ezra was published (hence its Greek name of Paralipomenon, which means "left out"). Anonymously written in the 5th or 4th century BCE26,27 the text describes events from a several hundreds of years earlier26. It was later divided into Chronicles 1 and 228. This is not an historical account. The first nine chapters are devoted to long lists of fathers and sons, serving as a nationalistic mythology of a fledging Hebrew nation, and providing structure to religious rituals and temple life. Some of the details stray into the ridiculous, historically speaking. Most of its story content draws heavily on content from Samuel and Kings27 and is largely a rewrite, but with a different slant and some contradictory facts29. The intent is to describe things in a way that presents moral and religious teachings in accordance with southern kingdom concerns (the north is completely absent)26; its focus on history has lesser priority and its stories are contradicted by archaeological evidence and internal inconsistencies.

For more, see:

Ezra, Esdras and Nehemiah - Confusing Titles

#bible_history #the_bible

Ezra:

Nehemiah:

For more, see:

Ezra-Nehemiah / 1 Esdras / Ezra (2 Esdras)

#bible_history #ezra #haggai #jewish_temple #the_bible

Written and edited by unknown authors around the 3rd century BCE. Some Jews in Babylon were released, and this is the story of their return to Jerusalem. Also, Persian activity constantly disrupts the building of the second Jewish Temple. Ezra describes and deliberates over the "problem" of Jews marrying non-Jews. There are numerical contradictions between Ezra 2 and Neh. 7, which both present detailed counts of how many families moved between Babylon and Jerusalem, but err by over 10,000 people30. 'The many literary and historical problems associated with Ezra make the literature on this subject enormous and controversial'31. Ezra also presents a problematic ethics and is a source of racism based on Ezra 9:2-3 and Ezra 10:2-3,10-12 which threaten god's wrath upon those who marry foreign wives, the mere rumour of which causes Ezra to tear his clothes, pluck out his beard hair and sit down astonished. We in the modern world know better: tolerance between ethnicities is core facet of human decency, and so, Ezra is probably best to remain largely forgotten.

For more, see:

Ezra-Nehemiah / 2 Esdras / Nehemiah (2 Esdras)

#bible_history #the_bible

Jews in Jerusalem (including some who have returned from Babylon) rebuild the city walls. Nehemiah is text taken from the book of Ezra32, who continues his law-based reforms including the curbing of abusive religious practices.

For more, see:

Esther

Written by unknown author(s) towards the 1st century BCE. This story is the basis of the Jewish festival of Purim. Esther (wife of Persian king Ahasuerus) and Mordecai prevent Haman from massacring Jews after Esther provokes the king into a rage, although ultimately, it is 75,800 non-Jews who are killed in this text. There is no mention of God or God's will throughout this entire book, and it is hard to see why it is counted as "holy" - it is a secular historical writing, but, has been found to be unreliable in its actual historical details, and it is difficult here to find any stories of moral worth. Even in places where clear moral instruction could have been given, we find none.

Religions of the World33 describes this book thusly: "The Book of Esther tells how the Jewish wife of a foreign king took great risks to protect the Jews whose lives were threatened while they were in exile in Babylon"34.

For more, see:

9. Archaeological and Historical Contradictions

Book CoverFor centuries, Bible readers took it for granted that the scriptures were both divine revelation and accurate history, conveyed directly from God to a wide variety of Israelite sages, prophets, and priests. [...] The books of Joshua, Judges, and Samuel were all regarded as sacred records preserved by the venerable prophet Samuel at Shiloh, and the books of Kings were seen as the product of the prophet Jeremiah's pen. [...]

Although Western pilgrims and explorers had roamed over the land of the Bible since the Byzantine period, it was only with the rise of modern historical and geographical studies, in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, that scholars well versed in both the Bible and other ancient sources began to reconstruct the landscape of ancient Israel on the basis of topography, biblical references, and archaeological remains, rather than relying on the ecclesiastical traditions of the various holy places. The pioneer in this field was the American Congregationalist minister Edward Robinson, who undertook two long explorations through Ottoman Palestine in 1838 and in 1852 , in an effort to refute the theories of the biblical critics by locating and identifying authentic, historically verified biblical sites.

"The Bible Unearthed" by Finkelstein & Silberman (2002)1,2