Lies & Corruption in Genesis 1-3

Many people, maybe the majority of people, seem amazingly susceptible to “conspiracy theories”. Perhaps the reason is, as Aristotle said, “All men by nature desire knowledge.” I expect that most people would prefer if the “knowledge” they acquire had a high probability of being correct, but many people are apparently satisfied if they are given only a reasonable sounding explanation, even if the “explanation” is some cockamamie conspiracy “theory” (or better, “speculation”). Similarly, many people (evidently the majority of people in the world) are apparently satisfied with “explanations” that contain the meaningless word ‘God’.

It’s common to call such explanations “conspiracy theories”, but communications would be helped if distinctions were made. For example, there’s the “conspiracy theory” that earth scientists, worldwide, are engaged in a gigantic conspiracy to convince the public that greenhouse gases cause global warming; that “theory” should be more accurately described as a “conspiracy speculation”; those promoting it should be charged with getting a substantial number of scientists to agree on any controversial proposal; it’s as difficult as the proverbial herding of cats. As another example, there’s the “conspiracy theory” that the G.W. Bush Administration invaded Iraq for its oil; that “theory” should be more accurately described as a “conspiracy hypothesis”; it does summarize some data, but those promoting it should produce more evidence to support their hypothesis. And as another example, there’s the conspiracy theory that the Nixon Administration conspired to cover-up their involvement in the Watergate break-in; in this case, enough evidence has been found to justify calling it a “conspiracy theory”; that is, similar to theories of evolution, electromagnetism, relativity, quantum mechanics, etc., the conspiracy theory dealing with the Nixon cover-up has a high probability of being true.

According to the Oxford American Dictionary, a conspiracy is: “a secret plan by a group to do something unlawful or harmful.” That definition, however, seems inadequate. For example, if a group concocts a secret plan to start a new religion, then today in other than Islamic societies, China, and a few other nations, their plan wouldn’t be “unlawful”. Further, proponents of the new religion would undoubtedly argue that their new religion wouldn’t be “harmful”, arguing instead that it would be “beneficial”. Other people, however, argue that all speculations about the supernatural are “harmful”. Therefore, the above dictionary definition of ‘conspiracy’ suffers from a lack of consensus on a meaning for ‘harmful’; like beauty, a conspiracy seems to be in the eye of the beholder.

That accepted, in this and subsequent posts in this blog’s Part 2 I’ll be proposing that the Old Testament (OT) was concocted via a collusion among Ezra and co-conspirators (under their Persian masters) to foist a Persian-inspired religion and priesthood on the Jewish people. I’ll try to provide evidence supporting the hypothesis that Ezra and co-conspirators (which I’ll abbreviate to Ezra & C-C) lied, deceived, plagiarized, corrupted, and generally bastardized both historical records and available myths, stories, and songs, with the goal of establishing a revised religion with a revitalized priesthood to rule the Jews, primarily for the benefit of the priests. Some critics will probably call my proposal a “conspiracy speculation” (or maybe a “wild”, “crazy”, or “cockamamie conspiracy theory”), but I’ll attempt to provide sufficient evidence to justify calling it a “conspiracy hypothesis”.

Of course, proposing a conspiracy hypothesis is one thing; it’s more difficult to demonstrate that a particular conspiracy hypothesis has a high probability of being valid, “beyond a reasonable doubt”, especially for such a “wicked” conspiracy as I’m suggesting Ezra & C-C perpetrated. Actually, though, the task I’m undertaking is relatively simple: I don’t seek to “prove” the alleged conspiracy “beyond a reasonable doubt” for anyone; instead, I’ll try to present evidence and innuendos that may plant seeds of suspicion in readers’ minds about strategies, tactics, and methods used by Ezra & C-C. I’ll also recommend that readers nurture any sprouts from those seeds of suspicion by considering apparent motives. In particular, it seems clear that the Persians wanted a Palestinian province (which paid its taxes and was loyal to the Empire) and that the Jewish priests wanted more power over the Jewish people. Furthermore, in a couple of instances, the Ezra & C-C conspiracy hypothesis proposed does provide predictions, and if archeological evidence confirms the predictions, then Bayes’ method can be used to find the increased probability that the hypothesis is true.

Meanwhile, certainly I’m not the first to accuse Ezra & C-C of such a conspiracy. For example, as described by Richard Carrier, the "Christian father" Eusebius of Caesarea (c.263–339), in his Praeparatio Evangelica, promotes lying for the cause of Christianity – just as Plato had suggested lying for the welfare of the state and just as the Hebrew priests had done (Eusebius suggests) in promoting their religion:
That it is necessary sometimes to use falsehood as a medicine for those who need such an approach. [As said in Plato’s Laws 663e by the Athenian {one of the discussants}:] “And even the lawmaker who is of little use… if he dared lie to young men for a good reason, then can’t he lie? For falsehood is something even more useful… and sometimes even more able to bring it about that everyone willingly keeps to all justice.” [Then by Clinias {the other discussant}:] “Truth is beautiful, stranger, and steadfast. But to persuade people of it is not easy.” You would find many things of this sort being used even in the Hebrew scriptures, such as concerning God being jealous or falling asleep or getting angry or being subject to some other human passions, for the benefit of those who need such an approach.
Carrier adds:
So in a book where Eusebius is proving that the pagans got all their good ideas from the Jews, he lists as one of those good ideas Plato’s argument that lying, indeed telling completely false tales, for the benefit of the state is good and even necessary. Eusebius then notes quite casually how the Hebrews did this, telling lies about their God, and he even compares such lies with medicine, a healthy and even necessary thing…
Of course, there are different types of lies, and some support can be found for Plato’s argument. What we commonly call “white lies” are those untruths told to benefit someone other than the teller. For example, if in response to a meal prepared by your spouse you say, “Great meal, wonderful meal, you’re a tremendous cook”, then you might even suffer – by having to endure a similar meal again! In contrast, “black lies” are told primarily to benefit the liar.

And if it should be argued that lies told by clerics (not just Jewish clerics but all clerics) are “white lies”, because the clerical goal is to help the people, then I have two obvious responses: 1) Telling people lies about “the supernatural” doesn’t help the people, since no good comes from denying reality (which, sometimes unfortunately, seems to have a natural tendency to refuse to go away!) and 2) The primary beneficiaries of priestly lies have always been the priests (obviating their need to work for a living). As Voltaire said:
A clergyman is one who feels himself called upon to live without working at the expense of the rascals who work to live.
In particular, I propose that the purpose of the OT conspiracy was to strengthen the Jewish priesthood, who planned to leech off the Jewish producers (farmers, tradesmen, fisherman, etc.) and I suggest that the strategy that the conspirators employed was to create the OT. As I’ll try to show, the two dominant features of their tactics were to lie and to corrupt older writings.

Maybe I should try to be more explicit about my meaning for ‘lie’. In the time period roughly between fifty and five thousand years ago, when people first concocted ideas of spirits, souls, gods, and so on, most people (almost certainly) weren’t purposefully fabricating untruths (viz., lying); instead, in their ignorance, they were simply mistaken. During the past 5,000-or-so years (i.e., throughout history), if such people as Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus (if they existed), Muhammad, and Sidney Rigdon (almost certainly the author of the Book of Mormon) claimed to hear messages from “the supernatural”, it would probably be inappropriate to call them ‘liars’; more likely, they had mental disorders (or I’ll use the common word ‘insane’, meaning “not sane”). And today, the majority of “modern” people who believe in spirits, souls, gods, sins, prayers, and so on, are probably not lying; instead, in their failures to educate themselves, in their failures to examine the evidence, in their failures to appreciate that beliefs should be held only as strongly as relevant evidence warrants, they simply continue in past errors; therefore, it would be more appropriate to describe such people as ‘failures’ rather than ‘liars’. As Mark Twain (pseudonym of Samuel Clemens, 1835–1910) wrote in his Autobiography:
In religion and politics people’s beliefs and convictions are in almost every case gotten at second-hand, and without examination, from authorities who have not themselves examined the questions at issue but have taken them at second-hand from other non-examiners, whose opinions about them were not worth a brass farthing.
An illustration of such failures is available in the comment by “Ted” (Comment #17, posted 24 Nov. 2007) associated with the article at Black Sun Journal entitled “Refusing to Hide: Dialogue with a 12-year-old Atheist”:
I grew up in an atheist family… and adopted my parents’ views, primarily because the explanations offered by my Christian friends didn’t make sense. I do remember being ridiculed several times. Once in second grade I was on the bus and we were waiting outside of the school for the morning bell to ring. Someone heard me talking to one of my friends about atheism and they shouted it out to the bus driver. The bus driver stood up and an interesting dialog followed:

Bus Driver: Who wakes your mom up in the morning?
Me: An alarm clock

Bus Driver: Who wakes your dad up then?
Me: The same alarm clock

Bus Driver: Who makes the sun rise?
Me (stumped) : …
Everyone Else: GOD!

Bus Driver: Who makes the wind blow?
Everyone Else: GOD!
Thereby, by persecuting that second grader, the bus driver demonstrated his many failures: failure to study, failure to learn, failure to educate himself, failure to understand that the Sun rises because the Earth spins, failure to understand that the wind blows because of nonuniform heating of the Earth, failure to hold beliefs only as strongly as evidence warrants, and most importantly, failure to honor the little boy’s doubt and to appreciate (as given in a Chinese proverb): “Great doubts, deep wisdom; small doubts, little wisdom.”

The incident on the bus reveals, moreover, a failure of our society: we have laws to try to protect children from physical and sexual abuse; why do we permit their mental abuse by such morons, such brutes, as that school-bus driver? And of course it’s not just bus drivers and similar: in their classes, some teachers promote similar stupidities (e.g., promoting the intelligent-design speculation); in their courts, some judges promote praying, the display of the Ten Commandments, and the use of “the Holy Bible” to swear oaths, and in America, when will we see an end to politicians’ promoting scientific models developed by the Ancient Egyptians?! As H.L. Mencken said:
Men become civilized, not in proportion to their willingness to believe, but in proportion to their readiness to doubt.
But for now, I’ll try to constrain such rants against failures of our society and get back to my meaning for ‘lie’. In contrast to mistakes, insanities, and failures, a ‘lie’ (according to my dictionary) is “an intentionally false statement; used with reference to a situation involving deception…” That definition of ‘lie’, however, relies on the incorrect concept that in the “open system” known as ‘reality’, it’s possible to determine what’s ‘true’ (and similarly, what’s ‘false’). As I’ve detailed elsewhere, such determinations are possible only in “closed systems”, such as games, pure mathematics, and religions, with their specified, inviolate, “rules of the game.” For open systems (e.g., in reality), in contrast, at best we can determine only the probability that any statement is true, with probabilities necessarily falling in the range greater than zero (“false”) and less than unity (“true”). In reality, we can’t be certain of anything (even that claim!): ‘certainty’ implies probabilities of exactly zero (false) or exactly unity (true).

For example, as I’ve shown elsewhere and Descartes’ conclusion (“I think; therefore I am”) notwithstanding, we can’t be sure even that we exist: we may be just simulations in a colossal computer game! The probability that we exist, however, seems to very close to unity, roughly to within 1 part in 10^25 of unity, i.e., 0.9999999999999999999999999 (if I counted all those 9s correctly). Meanwhile, the probability of the existence of any god can easily be seen to be extremely small, essentially certainly less than 1 part in 10^100 and more likely less than 1 part in 10^500 (i.e., 0.00000… continue for a total of 499 zeros… 1). Consequently, anyone who claims with certainty that any god exists (i.e., who claims that the probability of the existence of some god is exactly unity) is either ignorant or a liar, where with the adjective ‘ignorant’ I would include fools, failures, and the insane.

I agree with my dictionary’s definition that a lie is distinguished from a mistake by intent. If someone propagates as “true” an idea that he thinks has a high probability of being true but in reality has a high probability of being false, then he’s (simply) mistaken. On the other hand, if a person propagates an idea as “true” that he expects has high probability of being false, and does so primarily for his own benefit (or at least, not for the benefit of the recipient of the propagated idea), then he’s a liar.

Thus, parents who propagate “the god idea” with the intent of helping their children (e.g., to gain “eternal life”, “moral direction”, “happiness”, “comfort”, “purpose”, “certainty”, etc.) and clerics who propagate the god idea with intent to similarly help their followers are mistaken: they propagate the god idea out of ignorance, not only ignorance about probabilities but also about the alleged benefits of the god idea. On the other hand, clerics who propagate the god idea primarily for their own and their institution’s benefit (e.g., for remuneration, to avoid working for a living, for power and prestige, etc.) are either ignorant (fools, failures, or insane) or liars: they’re ignorant if they truly “believe”, with certainty, that any god exits (since no one but a fool, or someone who fails to take advantage of educational opportunities, or someone who is insane would have zero doubts about the validity of any idea) and more likely they’re liars (since they propagate an idea whose validity they doubt – but they do so, anyway, primarily for their own and their institution’s benefit, with benefits to the institution also accruing to them). And although it’s difficult to correctly infer someone else’s intention – especially the intentions of people who lived long ago – yet for reasons that I’ll try to demonstrate in these posts, I have no doubt that the clerics who wrote (or better, “concocted”) the principal “holy books” of Western culture (the Old and New Testaments of the Bible, the Quran, and sundry other books, such as the Book of Mormon and the Book of Abraham) intended to deceive, for their own and for their fellow clerics’ benefits, and therefore, were liars.

Certainly, all such “holy books” or “sacred scriptures” contain an enormous number of misunderstandings. It would be a challenge to find a single page of “sacred scripture” that doesn’t contain erroneous ideas, most of which are so scientifically silly as to be humorous. Elsewhere I’ve commented on some such scientific mistakes and provided references where more such errors are detailed.

In this series of post, though, my goal is different: to demonstrate at least a few of the many cases where historians have found that the authors of such “holy books” deliberately not only fabricated untruths but also, in many cases, did so by deliberately distorting the plagiarized work of others. In what follows, I’ll emphasize cases from the Old Testament (OT) and the New Testament (NT) of the Bible, plus cases from the Book of Mormon (BoM) and the Book of Abraham (BoA). I’ll mention some cases in the Quran (or Qur’an or Koran) but not many, principally because in their societies, Muslim clerics still have sufficient power so that, unfortunately, they aren’t thrown into prison for ordering the killing of anyone who seeks to subject the Quran to historical analyses. Consequently, in the case of the Quran, I’m not able to rely on many results from competent historians – and I’m certainly not one of them!

In the case of lies in the Bible, it’s hard to improve on Mark Twain’s summary:
[The Bible] has noble poetry in it; and some clever fables; and some blood-drenched history; and some good morals; and a wealth of obscenity; and upwards of a thousand lies.
As far as I know, nobody has counted the total number of lies in the Bible, but Twain’s estimate is fairly good: “upwards of a thousand” – without specifying how far “upward” (of a thousand) the correct answer lies! Meanwhile, the number of lies in the Quran depends on how they’re counted: should one count each alleged communication from Allah to Muhammad as a lie – or count them all together as one enormous lie? In the case of the Book of Mormon, a similar problem arises: one could count the lies that exist on essentially every page or count the entire book as just one humongous lie, since I’ll be demonstrating (as others have) that it’s a total fabrication, created for the benefit of still another group of con-artist clerics.

In the case of the OT, the Documentary Hypothesis (outlined in the previous post) doesn’t address the politically (and religiously) sensitive question: Which parts of the OT simply represent misunderstandings of primitive people and which parts are nothing but priestly fabrications, forgeries, and lies? As Ingersoll said:
Now, they say that this book [the Bible] is inspired. I do not care whether it is or not. The question is: Is it true? If it is true, it doesn’t need to be inspired. Nothing needs inspiration except a falsehood or a mistake.
But even for the OT, I’m not going to try to provide a detailed answer to Ingersoll’s question “Is it true?” Not only have hundreds (if not thousands) of conscientious scholars spent centuries trying to answer that question; I don’t have the time, energy, or even inclination to try. In fact, my inclination is to resort to an obvious argument: since we can say, with enormously more certainty than that we exist [probability of about 0.999999999999999999999999] that no god exists or has ever existed [probability of about 0.99999999999999999999999999999… (continue for a total of 499, 9s)], then with similarly enormous certainty, we can confidently conclude that all “holy books”, all “sacred scriptures”, are nothing but speculations, mistakes, fabrications, lies, stupidities, hooey, garbage… that belong in the trashcan of human mistakes – save for a few copies, tucked away (e.g., in the “reserve section” of libraries) for future scholars to study, to see how stupid humans once were! But in spite of my (strong!) inclination to thereby dismiss all “sacred scripture” as so much balderdash, yet in this series of posts, in case some readers aren’t convinced by what I consider to be the “obvious argument” (given above), I’ll try to provide at least some evidence of their lies, starting with the lies in Genesis 1, 2, & 3.

Of all the lies that people tell, a compelling argument can easily be made that the most pathetic is to lie to themselves. A case in point is the school bus driver, mentioned above. He lied to himself (and then to his captive children) that he “knows” that “God” makes the Sun rise in the morning and causes the wind to blow. In reality, he “knows” no such thing: he assumes it; he has simply accepted the authority of his parents, his community, or his clerics; he’s adopted a simple model of the universe, comfortable for his simple mind; if he were honest with himself, then when asked why the sun comes up and why the wind blows, he would answer (in the vernacular): “I dunno.”

In China, approximately 100 years before Ezra and co-conspirators were “redacting” the OT, Kung the master (i.e., Kung fu tse or, Latinized, Confucius, c. 555–479 BCE) saw what that bus driver never learned:
When you know a thing, to hold that you know it; and when you do not know a thing, to allow that you do not know it – this is [the beginning of wisdom].
In Greece, during the time period when Ezra & C-C were fabricating the OT, Socrates (469–399 BCE) similarly saw what that bus driver failed to see (and religious people fail to see):
[T]he most reprehensible form of ignorance [is] that of thinking one knows what one does not know…
In contrast to such wisdom, such honesty, consider what Ezra & C-C wrote at the start of Genesis 1 (copied, here, from the New English Bible, not only because it’s easier to read but also because the compilers were careful to provide alternative translations):
In the beginning of creation, when God [Elohim] made heaven and earth, the earth was without form and void, with darkness over the face of the abyss, and a mighty wind that swept over the surface of the waters. God [Elohim] said, “Let there be light”, and there was light; and God [Elohim] saw that the light was good, and he separated light from darkness. He called the light day, and the darkness night. So evening came, and morning came, the first day.
In an earlier chapter I commented on some of the many scientific errors in Genesis 1 and on its many possible origins. Here, I’ll ignore the scientific silliness and only briefly list possible sources used by the author (or authors, assumed to be Ezra & C-C, again using C-C as an abbreviation for “co-conspirators”). Listing possible sources from progressively more ancient times, they include the following three.

1. The Persian (Zoroastrian) six-period (not six-day!) creation myth (from ~600–1000 BCE), which was eventually written in The Bundahishn (“Creation”) 1, 28, and which includes the same order of creation as in the first genesis myth of the OT:
Of Ohrmazd’s [or Ahura Mazda’s] creatures of the world, the first was the sky; the second, water; the third, earth; the fourth, plants; the fifth, animals; the sixth, mankind.
2. The Babylonian creation myth Enuma Elish (recorded on clay tablets ~1100 BCE but undoubtedly communicated orally for at least 1,000 years), which contains a similar 6-periods of creation (six generations of gods) and which, after the new chief god (Marduk) makes man, even has a seventh period, during which the newly created man is to serve the gods:
Blood to blood I [Marduk] join,
blood to bone I form an original thing
[out of one of the fallen gods];
its name is Man,
aboriginal man is mine in making.

All his occupations are faithful service,
the gods that fell have rest…

When universal law was set up and the gods allotted their calling, then the Anunnaki [the rest of the gods]… opened their mouths to speak to Marduk: “Now that you have freed us and remitted our labor how shall we make a return for this? Let us build a temple and call it The-Inn-of-Rest-by-Night. There we will sleep at the season of the year, at the Great Festival when we form the Assembly; we will build altars for him [Marduk], we will build the Parakku, the Sanctuary.”

When Marduk heard this his face shone like broad day: “Tall Babel Tower, it shall be built as your desire; bricks shall be set in moulds and you shall name it Parakku, the Sanctuary.”
3. The Egyptian creation myth recorded in the Pyramid Texts ~1500 BCE but undoubtedly from much earlier:
In the beginning, before there was any land of Egypt, all was darkness, and there was nothing but a great waste of water called Nun. The power of Nun was such that there arose out of the darkness a great shining egg, and this was Re [or Ra, the sun god]. Now, Re was all-powerful, and he could take many forms. His [Re’s] power and the secret of it lay in his hidden name… if he [Re] spoke other names, that which he named came into being. [Just as Ezra & C-C claimed for their god.]
After five days of making other gods, on the sixth day Re arranged for man to be made:
The mighty Khnem’u fashioned them upon His potter’s wheel, and Re breathed into them the breath of life.
Of course, essentially every culture had its genesis myth. One that I find particularly entertaining is the genesis myth of a tribe of African Pygmies, whose chief god is Khonvum. The following description of the myth is copied from Arthur Cotterell’s book A Dictionary of World Mythology, Oxford University Press, 1986.
“In the beginning was god; today is god; tomorrow will be god”… After the creation of the world, [Khonvum] lowered from the sky to the earth the first men – the Pygmies… [It’s neat how the "chosen race" for each god just happened to be of the same stature or color or… of the people who concocted the myth! Of course, not that I’m suspicious about who chose the Pygmies or the Hebrews or… to be "god’s chosen people"!] The nightly chore of Khonvum is the renewal of the sun; he collects broken pieces of stars in his sack and tosses armfuls of them at the sun, so it can rise again next morning in its original splendor. [I rather like this myth: at least the Pygmies identified something for their god to do; in contrast to the meddlesome god familiar in our culture (i.e., the Egyptian god Aton or Adonai or Adonis or El or Yahweh or Jehovah or ‘just plain’ God) who seems to have nothing better to do than meddle in peoples’ affairs – the universal busybody!]
But that bit of fun aside, notice for the first genesis myth in the OT not only the apparent plagiarisms by Ezra & C-C of earlier Persian, Babylonian, and Egyptian myths but also their blatant lie. They state, in essence and in no uncertain terms: “This is the way creation occurred.” In reality, though, they didn’t know it. If they weren’t lying to the world, then even worse, they were lying to themselves. But I strongly suspect that they knew they didn’t know.

If a reader eager to defend Ezra & C-C responded with something similar to: “But all cultures had their creation myths and all state in no uncertain terms how creation occurred” or “In those ancient days, a person couldn’t be expected to be so honest”, then an appropriate response would be: “Not so!” For example, as Carl Sagan pointed out in his book Broca’s Brain: Reflections on the Romance of Science, the Hindu “holy book”, the Rig Veda (129.6) states:
Who truly knows, who can honestly say, where this universe came from and where it will vanish to at the end? Those godlike wise men who claim they know were born long after the birth of creation. Who then could know where our universe really came from? And whoever knows or does not know where creation came from, only one gazing at its vastness from the very roof of the final heaven, only such a one could possibly know. But does even He know?
The exact date of origin of such honesty is unknown, but there’s little doubt that it was recorded in the Rig Veda approximately 1,000 years before the time of Ezra, and as Jawaharlal Nehru (the first Prime Minister of India after its independence from Britain) wrote: “Rig Veda is the earliest book that humanity possesses. Yet behind the Rig Veda itself lay ages of civilized existence and thought...”

Actually, though, the above-quoted honesty in the Rig Veda is surrounded by drug-induced (specifically, Soma-induced) misunderstandings, mysticism, and lies, putting in question the claim of “ages of civilized existence and thought.” For example, the first five lines of the same Hymn CXXIX, Creation, from The Tenth Book of the Rig Veda (the lines quoted above being lines six and seven) are:
1. THEN was not non-existent nor existent: there was no realm of air, no sky beyond it. What covered in, and where? and what gave shelter? Was water there, unfathomed depth of water?

2. Death was not then, nor was there aught immortal: no sign was there, the day’s and night’s divider. That One Thing, breathless, breathed by its own nature: apart from it was nothing whatsoever.

3. Darkness there was: at first concealed in dark knew this All was indiscriminated chaos. All that existed then was void and formless: by the great power of Warmth was born that Unit.

4. Thereafter rose Desire in the beginning, Desire, the primal seed and germ of Spirit. Sages who searched with their heart’s thought discovered the existent’s kinship in the non-existent.

5. Transversely was their severing line extended: what was above it then, and what below it? There were begetters, there were mighty forces, free action here and energy up yonder.
When the priest that composed those first five lines came down from his Soma-induced “high”, it would have been interesting to hear his explanation of how “Desire” managed to appear in “the void”. I wonder if he would have been honest and replied: “I dunno.”

I presume it was a different Hindu priest who (almost certainly also on a Soma “high”) decided that he “knew”. Thus, in the same Book Ten of the Rig Veda, Hymn CXC, Creation states:
1. From Fervor kindled to its height Eternal Law and Truth were born: Thence was the Night produced, and thence the billowy flood of sea arose.

2. From that same billowy flood of sea the Year was afterwards produced, Ordainer of the days [and] nights, Lord over all who close the eye.

3. Dhatar, the great Creator, then formed in due order Sun and Moon. He formed in order Heaven and Earth, the regions of the air, and light.
Such musings are, unfortunately, characteristic of all mystics: unlike the rest of us, they needn’t slog through the tediousness of studying data, formulating succinct hypotheses (that summarize the data, are consistent with tested principles, and have predictive capability), testing predictions against new experimental results, and so on. In short, mystics don’t need to apply the scientific method to gain knowledge – at least, so they claim. Instead (so they claim), they “just know.” Stated differently, they’re not only stupid and liars, they’re lazy.

But although mystics are stupid and lazy and liars (even to themselves), those attributes, alone, might be tolerable. The attribute that becomes intolerable, however, is their resulting attitude. As Robert Ingersoll (1833–1899) wrote:
Whenever a man believes that he has the exact truth from God, there is in that man no spirit of compromise. He has not the modesty born of the imperfections of human nature; he has the arrogance of theological certainty and the tyranny born of ignorant assurance.
That’s the attitude adopted by Ezra & C-C (and of all clerics who concocted all “holy books”): they claim to be in possession of “the Truth”, and all who disagree with them are, if not evil, at least damned. As Mark Twain said:
Man is the religious animal. He is the only religious animal. He is the only animal that has the True Religion – several of them. He is the only animal that loves his neighbor as himself and cuts his throat, if his theology isn’t straight. He has made a graveyard of the globe in trying his honest best to smooth his brother’s path to happiness and heaven.
What a difference between such ignorant certainty and honest doubt! Few religious people, it would seem, appreciate the wisdom expressed by Pharaoh Akhenaton (c.1353 - c.1336 BCE):
The wise man doubteth often, and changeth his mind; the fool is obstinate, and doubteth not; he knoweth all things but his own ignorance.
But then, even Akhenaton apparently succumbed to his own cockamamie theory (his speculation) about God (aka Aton): he’s commonly called the world’s first monotheist. In turn, Akhenaton’s idea led to the ridiculous speculations about God described by Zoroaster, which were later incorporated in Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and Mormonism and which still today pollute the world.

Throughout history, however, there have been doubters – evidence for which can be seen even in the theists’ “sacred scriptures” and “holy books”, all of which damn those whom the theists label as doubters, infidels, nonbelievers, atheists, and similar “badges of honor”. Although throughout history the damn theists have tried to silence the doubters (e.g., by killing them) and to destroy their recorded thoughts, a few jewels have survived. Some illustrations from Ancient Greece are the following.
“But as for certain truth, no man has known it, nor will he know it – neither of the gods nor yet of all the things of which I speak. And even if by chance he were to utter the final truth, he would himself not know it, for all is but a woven web of guesses.” [Xenophanes (c.570 – c.475 BCE)]

“Everything has a natural explanation. The moon is not a god but a great rock and the sun a hot rock.” [Anaxagoras, imprisoned and sentenced to death for such “blasphemy” in about 450 BCE]

“About the gods, I am not able to know whether they exist or do exist, nor what they are like in form; for the factors preventing knowledge are many: [including] the obscurity of the subject, and the shortness of human life.” [From Protagoras’ book On The Gods, which resulted in the first known instance of official “book burning” (by Greek clerics), in 415 BCE, and his exile.]

“When I look upon seamen, men of physical science, and philosophers, man is the wisest of all beings. When I look upon priests, prophets, and interpreters of dreams, nothing is so contemptible as man.” [Diogenes (412–323 BCE)]
Moreover, even in the Bible’s first genesis myth, there’s a hint of another “contemptible” aspect of Ezra & C-C’s conspiracy. Why (any rational person would probably ask) did they end their silly creation myth with the following?
Thus heaven and earth were completed with all their mighty throng. On the sixth day God [Elohim] completed all the work he had been doing, and on the seventh day he ceased from all his work. God [Elohim] blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on that day he ceased from all the work he had set himself to do.
Did Elohim tire from uttering the names of things to make them appear (or from snapping his fingers creating them, or whatever)? Isn’t it a bit insulting to suggest that an omnipotent god gets tired?!

Well, strong hints of the clerics’ conspiracy appear in the fourth commandment (e.g., Exodus 20, 8), where Yahweh allegedly says:
“Remember to keep the sabbath day holy. You have six days to labor and do all your work. But the seventh day is a sabbath of the Lord your God [Yahweh]…”
So, does that mean that Yahweh or Elohim (or better, the conspiring clerics) are promoting an enlightened policy for laborers of the world? Finally for the farmers, fisherman, fighters, and so on, will there be relief in the form of a six-day workweek?

Not bloody likely! Farmers need to work as the weather and crops demand; fisherman, too, would be well-advised to fish when the fish are running and weather permits; and thank you very much, but I hope that the fighters (fighting fires, crimes, invaders, disease, illnesses, whatever) will be on call whenever they’re needed (and I’ll be quite content if all such groups of workers have even months on end with little to do).

So what’s with the new policy? Why are farmers told to let their crops be ruined by rain or frost or whatever, the fisherman told to ignore the fish run and not to secure their boats from an approaching storm, the fighters told to “cease and desist” once per week – on “the holy day”? It couldn’t possibly be, could it, that the damnable clerics want a guaranteed, captive audience, once per week, to collect the booty from the fools who fall for the clerics’ ruse? I strongly suspect that the Jewish clerics were just plagiarizing the Babylonian priests’ idea (from the Enuma Elish, quoted above) that man was created to serve the gods – with the priests consuming what the gods didn’t!

But moving on, next consider the (different) creation myth that’s given in Genesis 2. In this story, not Elohim (“God”) but Yahweh (“the Lord God”) “breathed into [Adam’s] nostrils the breath of life” (similar to how the Egyptian god Re put life in his clay man), placed him in the Garden of Eden “to till and care for it”, forbade him from eating “from the tree of knowledge of good and evil”, took one of the man’s ribs and “built up the rib… into a woman”, leading Adam to declare of Eve: “from man was this [woman] taken.” Of course, all of that’s a pack of lies: whoever wrote such nonsense was a liar, claiming to know what couldn’t be known, but lying apparently with a number of purposes, consistent with the priesthood’s conspiracy.

The reader can be fairly confident that the writer was a man (in spite of what I quoted in the previous post, suggesting that “J” might possibly have been a woman). In fact, evidence suggests that the writer was not only a male but also a male chauvinist, since one of his (and the co-conspirators’) goals was apparently to continue to subvert all women. Thus, for one, the writer who concocted the silliness that the first woman came from a man’s body did his best to subvert the reality that males come from women’s bodies (i.e., their mothers’). He did so by plagiarizing and distorting the Sumerian myth about Nin-ti (“the lady of the rib” or “lady of life), which in Hebrew became Havva (“life”), which in English first became Hevah (as in the Persian cosmology), and in more recent editions of the Bible is Eve. As I’ll show in later posts, the writer of this portion of the Bible (“J”) engaged in many more such plagiarisms and distortions of earlier myths.

The writer also tried to demolish any remnants of earlier religions in which females [such as Isis, Inanna, Ishtar, Ashtar, Eostre or Eastre (whom we still honor every Easter!), and Freya (whom we still honor every Friday!)] were worshipped as goddesses. From what one of the new clerics (Jeremiah) repeatedly wrote (at Jeremiah 7, 18; 44, 17–19, 45, 25), the reader can gain a glimpse of what they were fighting. For example, at Jeremiah 7, 18 is the claim that Yahweh conveyed the following message:
“Do you [Jeremiah] not see what is going on in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem? Children are gathering wood, fathers lighting fires, women kneading dough to make crescent–cakes in honor of the Queen of Heaven…”
How that fits in with the fight against older, maternalistic religions by the new breed of clerics promoting a patriarchal religion is rather complicated, probably best explained by someone who has spent much more time studying the subject than I ever want to, e.g., Amy Pavolvik. To her quotation (below) I’ve added a couple of notes in square brackets.
One of Noah’s descendants, Nimrod, “began to be a mighty one in the earth… And the beginning of his kingdom was Babel…” (Genesis 10, 8-10) Nimrod led the people in their defiance of God [Yahweh] as they erected the tower of Babel. “Now it was Nimrod who excited them to such an affront and contempt of God. He was the grandson of Ham, the son of Noah, a bold man, and of great strength of hand… He also said he would be revenged on God, if he would have a mind to drown the world again, for that he would build a tower too high for the waters to be able to reach! [Although that's inconsistent with the Babylonian myth, Enuma Elish (quoted above) in which the tower was built as a sanctuary for the gods.] And that he would avenge himself on God for destroying their forefathers!” (The Complete Works of Flavius Josephus, Whiston, Kregel Publications, 1960, 1978, p. 30, quoted in Sutton, William Josiah, The New Age Movement; And The Illuminati 666, The Institute of Religious Knowledge, 1983, p. 17, 18)

The stories of Nimrod’s life, conquests, and death were passed on in the worship of Assyria, Babylon, Egypt, Greece, and Rome. The Egyptians called him Osiris, and the Romans called him Mars.

How did this come about? Nimrod and his wife Semiramis began to be thought of as gods, as the sun and moon personified. When Nimrod died, Semiramis taught the people that his spirit now resided in the sun, that by morning he arose to bless the earth, and by evening he disappeared to fight with evil spirits under the earth. The… post-deluvians [post-flood people] were told to worship and give offerings to the sun each morning. The first day of the week was set aside for worship of the sun [“Sunday”] while the other weekdays were assigned to other celestial entities [e.g., “Monday” = the Moon’s day; “Saturday” = Saturn’s day, and even more such in languages such as French and Italian].

When Semiramis became pregnant, she claimed that her child had been miraculously fathered by the sun god Nimrod. Tammuz, as the baby was named, was born December 25. His birthday was held in esteem as the rebirth of the sun. After all, the winter days were just beginning to lengthen on December 25. It became an annual celebration. [As it was, much later, for Mithras and, of course, for Jesus]

According to legend, Tammuz’s wife, Ishtar, was the “Queen of Heaven.” The Hebrews called her Ashtoreth, and the Greeks and Romans, Venus.

Tammuz was killed by a wild boar. One legend says that the whole world mourned after his death, and Ishtar searched for him in the under-world. At the end of this mourning, Tammuz was believed to have become the new sun god.

Forty days were yearly assigned to fasting and mourning for Tammuz, at the end of which came Ishtar’s festival. To honor this “Queen of Heaven,” the worshippers offered food and wine to the rising sun on the hilltops. Cakes were baked, marked with a cross. “Our lord is risen!” they declared on this day…
Actually, though, I think that there’s more skullduggery, here (in Genesis 2), which will take a while to explain. In summary, I suspect that some later “redactor” (Ezra?) made matters even worse – made the story in Genesis 2 even more ridiculous – by altering the original text. Specifically, I suspect that the original author (“J”) concocted the story that Yahweh told Adam not to partake of fruit from “the tree of knowledge” – without the added phrase informing the reader that it was knowledge “of good and evil”, which Ezra & C-C later added (for reasons that I’ll suggest).

There’s a big difference between fruit from “the tree of knowledge” and fruit from “the tree of knowledge of good and evil”! In contrast to the case of this new “tree of knowledge of good and evil”, for thousands if not tens of thousands of years, people used fruit from “the tree of knowledge” [i.e., fruits from trees (as well as leaves and roots from plants) that produced hallucinations] to gain “knowledge of the spirit world.”

A brief explanation might be useful. As I reviewed in an earlier chapter, the idea that the world was full of spirits seems to have developed in stages. Thus, after primitive humans became aware of their own shadows (affixed to themselves, but seemingly not of themselves), their reflections in pools of water (another “I” staring back), and possibly most importantly, dreamt (as even my dog seems to do!), dreams in which a “shadow” or “refection” of themselves could detach from their bodies and engage in a variety of activities (walking, hunting, copulating…) – although no doubt their companions assured them that they remained where they were, asleep – people probably concluded that they possessed a separate “spirit”, which could be set free when they dreamt – and when they died.

Extension of that idea probably led to ideas about “spirits” of the people’s ancestors roaming nearby, entering their heads (as memories) and perhaps imagined seen or heard, maybe especially during nights! The spirits of especially powerful ancestors (e.g., tribal chiefs) were probably imagined to be especially powerful spirits (the first gods), continuously available to help guide and protect the tribe. In time, such ideas apparently led to thoughts about spirits existing in everything, including rivers, the wind, “sacred” groves and caves, etc., i.e., to animism, which my dictionary defines as “the belief in supernatural powers that organizes and animates the material universe.”

Further, with knowledge of flora that would likely shame many modern botanist, primitive people (especially tribal “medicine” men and women or shamans) probably knew which plants and their fruits were hallucinogenic [recently called ‘entheogens’, literally meaning “generating god within (the user)”]. No doubt different tribes in different regions would use different plants, just as in recorded time the Bwitists of Africa used the root bark of Iboga, Ancient Egyptians used the blue lotus, Greeks used kykeon, Siberians used fly araric mushroom (which may also be the Soma of the Hindus), cannibus was common in Germanic culture, and some Native Americans still use the peyote cactus. Ingesting such entheogens, primitive people “thought” that they entered “the spirit world – as many “modern” people apparently still “think” (using the word ‘think’ extremely loosely).

Maybe the best example of the resulting drug-induced mysticism is from the “sacred scripture” of the Hindus. For example, in the Hindu’s 749 page Rig Veda, there are 1,463 references to the entheogen Soma: on average, approximately two references to Soma on every page! This holiest of “holy books” of Hinduism could be called an ode to drinking Soma juice! Illustrative (from Hymn IV, Indri, p. 2) is:
Come thou to our libations, drink of Soma; Soma-drinker thou!
In fact, an entire hymn in the Rig Veda (XCI, The First Book) is devoted to Soma, which is also recognized as a god. As Stephen Naylor summarizes in Encyclopedia Mythica:
As a drink, Soma is the ambrosia of the gods. It was due to this influence that they could rise above all obstacles to achieve their goals. Indra was a great drinker of the substance; before his confrontation with Vitra, he drank rivers of it to gain the strength needed to overcome the fearsome dragon. Agni also consumed it in large amounts. Soma was what gave the Vedic gods their immortality. It was also a drink for mortals, a golden-hued nectar which was derived from the Soma plant, which may be a species known as ephedra vulgaris to botanists. This drink brought hallucinations and ecstasy to those who consumed it. It helped warriors to overcome their fears in battle, and it helped poets to become inspired to create. Soma was a bridge between the mortal world and that of the gods. This drink is the same as Haoma in Persian mythology.
It is, I think, particularly significant that Ezra’s bosses, the Persians (Zoroastrians) thus indulged in “fruit from the tree of knowledge”: I expect that when the Zoroastrian priests “proof-read” Ezra & C-C’s proposed OT, they demanded changes!

That is, I expect the original author (“J”) of Genesis 2 (which seems to have been written in about 800 BCE) was probably attempting to stop the people from using hallucinogens. Depending on the reader’s proclivity for “conspiracy theories”, the original writing could be interpreted either as the priests’ concern for their community, promoting the message “Don’t do drugs!” or as the priests saying, in essence: “All future communications with the supernatural are to go through us priests.” I then expect that when the Persian priests proof-read Ezra & C-C’s production and saw that “God” said “Don’t do drugs”, the Zoroastrian priests objected, in essence saying: “That’s wrong! God would never tell people not to use our wonderful Haoma!” So, I speculate, Ezra & C-C probably proposed a compromise: to change – to corrupt – what “J” had written to what now exists in the OT, with Yahweh telling Adam not to eat from “the tree of knowledge of good and evil.

But that compromise, that corruption, is nonsensical! Thus, for one, if Adam didn’t know (and couldn’t know) the difference between good and evil, then he wouldn’t know either that it was “good” to obey orders (e.g., the order not to eat from the tree of knowledge) or that it was “evil” not to obey orders. Second, the statement makes no sense, because good and evil (and all shades in between) have meaning only with respect to some objective.

Now, the author (“J”) claims that Yahweh did assign a goal for Adam (“to till and care for [the Garden]”), but consider poor old Adam’s plight: without knowledge of what was good vs. evil, he couldn’t possibly “till and care for [the Garden]”! How was he to know, for example, that it would be “good” to weed the garden of “bad" plants, to make sure all the “good” plants had sufficient water, to appropriately prune certain trees, and so on, and that it would be “evil” to till the soil when the wind was excessive, to cut down all the trees, or to set fire to the whole place? All such decisions require knowledge of what was good and evil in accomplishing his assigned goal, but Yahweh forbade him from learning the difference between good and evil! It’s crazy!

In fact, it’s even worse than crazy: the whole story of Genesis 2 collapses in absurdity. Genesis 2 starts with Yahweh breathing life into Adam (“Thus the man became a living creature”) and creating Eve from Adam’s rib, and the story closes with two naked people who “had no feeling of shame toward one another”, because they hadn’t eaten fruit from “the tree of knowledge of good and evil” and therefore didn’t know it was naughty to be naked – even in front of one’s own spouse?! The picture that the author apparently would have us imagine is that Adam and Eve were like two innocent little bunny rabbits living happily in lush surroundings.

But that picture was ruined by Ezra & C-C’s assumed redaction. If Adam and Eve didn’t (and couldn’t) know the difference between good and evil, then they wouldn’t know that it was “good” even to eat. Rabbits, in contrast, know that it’s “good” to eat - and "evil" to be eaten (e.g., by some "bad" coyote); that it's "good" to live and "bad" to die; in short, that “the good” is to live! In fact, that’s the fundamental characteristic of all life: knowing that it’s “good” to try to continue living. Rocks, in contrast, don’t know that it’s good to live. Therefore, the story was ruined by Ezra & C-C’s assumed redaction to placate the Persian priests.

In sum, it all becomes a damnable lie. Yahweh didn’t give Adam and Eve life. Without the knowledge of good and evil, without the knowledge that the fundamental good is to live, then like a couple of mannequins, Adam and Eve were as lifeless as the sand and clay from which they were allegedly made.

Instead, in reality, it was Mother Nature (viz., evolution) that gave life both its purpose and its knowledge of good and evil: that the purpose of life was to live and, therefore, that “the good” was to try to continue living; at the genetic level, that it was "good" to "go forth and multiply." For humans, in particular, with our prime advantage being our larger brains, “the good” is to try to solve our problems as intelligently as we can. As Socrates said: “There is only one good, knowledge [or willingness to learn] and one evil, ignorance [or refusal to learn].” By Socrates’ standard, then, science is good and religion is evil – although rather than insisting on applying Socrates’ standard, maybe we would make more progress trying to get the religious fools of the world to smarten up if we intelligently applied M.M. Mangasarian’s summary: “Religion is the science of children; science is the religion of adults.”

But returning to the proposed “conspiracy hypothesis", it’s apparent from the above that a prediction is available. The prediction is that, if a version of Genesis 2 is found that predates Ezra & C-C, that version will describe just the “tree of knowledge”, without the additional phrase “of good and evil”. Then, whether the prediction is validated or not, Bayes’ method can be used to estimate the change in the probability that the conspiracy hypothesis is valid.

Meanwhile, and finally for this post, consider Genesis 3, in which the serpent allegedly talks Eve into trying fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil and then God [Yahweh] punishes the lot of them. Unfortunately, this story contains even more stupidities! Elsewhere I’ve commented on the many Babylonian, Sumerian, Egyptian, and even African origins of the myth; here I’ll focus just on its stupidities.

One might think that Yahweh’s punishment of the serpent (for tricking Eve) would be for the serpent to lose his ability to talk, but in case the reader didn’t know, snakes can still talk – although I’ve found that it’s rare to hear them talk, because they laugh so much. Previously, before the serpent tricked Eve, snakes apparently had many legs – I suppose much like a centipede. The other day I heard a snake say: “That stupid Yahweh! Can you imagine how much trouble it was putting on all those socks and shoes and tying all those shoelaces? And he thought he was punishing us by removing our legs, so we could zoom around on our bellies! S-S-S-S-S” [That “S-S-S-S-S”, common for snakes, is how they laugh.]

Eve’s punishment for learning the difference between good and evil (without which, she couldn’t live!) was, in part, “You shall be eager for your husband, and he shall be your master.” Of course that’s more of the same male-chauvinist crap from the priests, but it’s worse – so much so, that I don’t understand how any even-half-way-intelligent female would have anything to do with such a god (or with anyone who promoted such a god): not only is he stupid, he’s evil, with an inability to comprehend even the simplest concept of “fairness”.

Eve did nothing wrong: it was impossible for her to know that she was to obey Yahweh’s order (since he didn’t permit her to know the difference between good and evil, e.g., that it was “good” to obey his orders). And then, the idiot Yahweh not only punishes her for her non-crime, he simultaneously punishes all women who will ever live! My great, great, great… granddaughters are condemned to be slaves (to their husbands) because of the non-crime of their great, great, great… grandmother Eve? That corrupts the essence of justice! If it’s God’s idea of justice, then how can any woman have anything to do with him?! We should hear, from all the woman of the world yelling at all clerics of all Abrahamic religions, “Blow it out your ear!” – or more fitting for more refined ladies (as someone else said): “You go Yahweh and I’ll go mine.”

And Adam’s punishment? Well, besides having a wife who was eager to have sex with him (Some punishment! What was the crazy cleric "J" thinking? Was he a homosexual?), Adam’s punishment was well summarized by Ayn Rand:
[The Doctrine of Original Sin] declares that [man] ate the fruit of the tree of knowledge – he acquired a mind and became a rational being. It was the knowledge of good and evil – he became a moral being. He was sentenced to earn his bread by his labor – he became a productive being. He was sentenced to experience desire – he acquired the capacity of sexual enjoyment. The evils for which [the clerics] damn him are reason, morality, creativeness, joy – all the cardinal values of his existence.
In his 1872 book The Gods, Robert Ingersoll summarized:
If the account given in Genesis is really true, ought we not, after all, to thank this serpent? He was the first schoolmaster, the first advocate of learning, the first enemy of ignorance, the first to whisper in human ears the sacred word liberty, the creator of ambition, the author of modesty, of inquiry, of doubt, of investigation, of progress and of civilization.
Finally, Genesis 3 ends with something to think about:
He [Yahweh] said, “The man has become like one of us [i.e., one of us gods, there being many gods, doncha know] knowing good and evil; what if he now reaches out his hand and takes fruit from the tree of life also, eats it, and lives for ever?” [We can’t have that! Humans aren’t to live forever like us gods!] So the Lord God [Yahweh] drove him [Adam] out of the Garden of Eden… He cast him out, and to the east of the Garden of Eden he stationed the cherubim and a sword whirling and flashing to guard the way to the tree of life [as the constellation Perseus, i.e., this is all part of a silly, plagiarized, astrological tale].
So, given the undoubtedly “literal truth” of the “Holy Bible”, with nothing to be added to it or taken away, maybe the reader would want to tell promoters of Christianity, Islam, Mormonism, etc. to put a lid on their trash: clearly their God doesn’t want any human to live forever.



Questions About the Creation of the Old Testament

Maybe some progress has been made:
In 1963, two out of three people [in the US] believed that the Bible was the actual word of God. Associated with this belief is the concept that the writings in the Bible are inerrant and infallible. By 1999, the numbers had reversed. Two out of three now regard the Bible as composed of “divinely inspired” texts or ancient fables, legends, and human-recorded moral codes.
But that “progress” (with two-out-of-three Americans in 1999 continuing to “think” that the Bible is “divinely inspired”) still reveals astounding ignorance – and more recently, it may be getting worse: in 2004, an ABC News poll found that
… 61 percent of Americans believe the account of creation in the Bible’s book of Genesis is “literally true” rather than a story meant as a “lesson.” Sixty percent believe in the story of Noah’s ark and a global flood, while 64 percent agree that Moses parted the Red Sea to save fleeing Jews from their Egyptian captors. The poll [has] a margin of error of 3 percentage points…
That seems to represent an enormous step backwards in five years (1999 to 2004), but maybe the wording of the questions make the answers incomparable (maybe those asked didn’t know the meaning of “literally true”) – or maybe the pollsters are kidding themselves about their margin of error.

Pity that the people’s “margin of error” wasn’t “3 percentage points”! Such results reveal that a terrible number of Americans “believe” (i.e., with ‘lief’ the Anglo-Saxon root word meaning ‘wish’, then a horrible number of Americans “wish it to be”) that the Bible’s Old Testament is, at the very least, “inspired” by no less than the creator of the universe, i.e., the first symmetry-breaking fluctuation in the original void that led to the Big Bang. Stated differently and although disagreements about details persist, a terrible number of Jews, Christians, Muslims, Mormons, etc. have been convinced by their parents, their cultures, by their own emotions (including their egotism, conceit, vanity, fear…), by their thoughts warped on hallucinatory drugs, or by whatever, that some omnipotent (all-powerful), omniscient (all knowing), omnibenevolent (all good), omnipresent (present everywhere)… immortal (undying) being (i.e., some god) not only created the universe and controls it but also conveyed to an otherwise unimportant group of primitive people in the Middle East “His” desires and instructions, which are now contained in the Bible (albeit, possibly flawed by human errors).

In reality, not the tiniest shred of evidence supports the idea that any god exists, let alone was involved in the creation of any “holy book”. In contrast, substantial evidence supports that the hypotheses that the Bible’s Old Testament and New Testament (and similarly the Quran and the Book of Mormon) were created by ignorant, power-mongering clerics, using available stories, songs, and speculations concocted by still earlier and even more ignorant people. For this post, my goal is to review at least a little of that evidence associated with the Old Testament (OT). I’ll provide more evidence in subsequent posts, both for the OT and for the other “holy books” mentioned.

At the outset, however, I should admit that I’m no historian and I’m a novice in the field of Bible ‘exegesis’ (meaning “critical explanation or interpretation of a text”). For fellow novices, perhaps the most relevant summary of all such studies is as given at the end of the Wikipedia article dealing with the “Documentary Hypothesis”, relating to the authorship of the first five books of the OT, called the Torah (from Hebrew tōrāh = “instruction, doctrine, law”, in turn from yārāh = “show, direct, instruct”) or called the Pentateuch (from Greek penta = ‘five’ and teukhos = “implement or book”):
The verities enshrined in older introductions have disappeared, and in their place scholars are confronted by competing theories which are discouragingly numerous, exceedingly complex, and often couched in an expository style that is (to quote John van Seter’s description of one seminal work) “not for the faint-hearted.”
Having spent far more time on the subject than I ever expected (or ever wanted) and admittedly not having my heart in any of it, I certainly agree that the entire business is “not for the faint-hearted.” But then, as Mark Twain said:
It ain't the parts of the Bible that I can't understand that bother me, it's the parts that I do understand.
For the Bible’s OT, the Documentary Hypothesis (outlined later in this post) apparently started when brilliant people such as Thomas Hobbes (1588–1679), Baruch Spinoza (1632–77), Thomas Paine (1737–1809), and many others, published comments on the Bible, saying (in effect): “Something’s amiss”. Such an assessment seems reasonable, even to casual readers of the OT, especially when their attention is called to points such as the following.

• The first few pages of the Bible contain two different and conflicting “creation stories.” As Doug Linder relays:
Most obviously, the order of creation is different in the two stories. In the six-day creation story, the order of creation is plants, birds and fish, mammals and reptiles, and finally man to reign over all created before him, while in the Adam and Eve story, the creation order is reversed, with man coming first, then plants and animals. [Neither of which, of course, is consistent with current knowledge about the evolution of the universe, stars, the earth, or life on earth.] The two creation stories also have different narrative rhythms, different settings, and different names for God. In the six-day story, the creation of humanity occurs through a single act and the creator, seemingly more cosmic than human-like, is present only through a series of commands. In the Adam and Eve story, on the other hand, man and woman are created through two separate acts, and God is present in a hands-on intimate way. The pre-creation setting in the six-day story is a watery chaos, while in the Adam and Eve version, the setting before creation is a dry desert. Finally, in the six-day story, the creator is called “Elohim” [usually translated ‘God’], while in the other version of events, the creator is “the Lord God” (“Yahweh”) [or the four-lettered name YHWH, usually translated LORD, sometimes miscalled “Jehovah”].
According to an (unspecified) author at the blog Into The Deep: “This gave rise to the theory that there were two different authors, one called E [for Elohim] and one called J (German for Y [for YWWH]), whose works were somehow combined to form a single text.”

Further, one of the founders of both the American and French republics, Thomas Paine, pointed out:
With respect to the cosmogony or account of the Creation (in Genesis 1), of the Garden of Eden (in Genesis 2), and of what is called the Fall of Man (in Genesis 3), there is something concerning them we are not historically acquainted with. In none of the books of the [OT] after Genesis, are any of these things mentioned, or even alluded to. How is this to be accounted for? The obvious inference is, that either they were not known, or not believed to be facts, by the writers of the other books of the Bible…

The next question on the case is, how did the Jews come by these notions, and at what time were they written? To answer this question we must first consider what the state of the world was at the time the Jews began to be a people, for the Jews are but a modern race compared with the antiquity of other nations. At the time there were, even by their own account, but thirteen Jews or Israelites in the world, Jacob and his twelve sons… The nations of Egypt, Chaldea, Persia, and India were great and populous, abounding in learning and science, particularly in the knowledge of astronomy… The chronological tables mention that eclipses were observed at Babylon above two thousand years before the Christian era, which was before there was a single Jew or Israelite in the world.

All those ancient nations had their cosmogonies, that is, their accounts how the Creation was made, long before there were such people as Jews or Israelites. An account of these cosmogonies of India and Persia is given by Henry Lord, Chaplain to the Fast India Company at Surat, and published in London in 1630. The writer of this has seen a copy of the edition of 1630, and made extracts from it. The work, which is now scarce, was dedicated by [Henry] Lord to the Archbishop of Canterbury.

We know that the Jews were carried captive into Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar, and remained in captivity several years, when they were liberated by Cyrus, king of Persia. During their captivity they would have had an opportunity of acquiring some knowledge of the cosmogony of the Persians, or at least of getting some ideas how to fabricate one to put at the head of their own history after their return from captivity. This will account for the cause, for some cause there must have been, that no mention nor reference is made to the cosmogony in Genesis in any of the books of the Bible supposed to have been written before the captivity, nor is the name of Adam to be found in any of those books.

The books of Chronicles were written after the return of the Jews from captivity, for the third chapter of the first book gives a list of all the Jewish kings from David to Zedekiah, who was carried captive into Babylon, and to four generations beyond the time of Zedekiah. In 1 Chron., the name of Adam is mentioned, but not in any book in the Bible written before that time, nor could it be, for Adam and Eve are names taken from the cosmogony of the Persians. Henry Lord, in his book, written from Surat and dedicated, as I have already said, to the Archbishop of Canterbury, says that in the Persian cosmogony the name of the first man was Adamoh, and of the woman, Hevah. {NOTE: In an English edition of the Bible, in 1583, the first woman is called Hevah. – Editor…}
• The OT doesn’t develop a coherent picture of God, starting even in the first three chapters of Genesis. Thus, in Genesis 1, God (Elohim) is depicted as omnipotent (e.g., similar to the Egyptian god Ra – concocted much earlier – able to create things simply by naming them), omniscient (e.g., knowing how to organize the entire universe), and omnibenevolent (e.g., creating the Earth for humans). Yet, in Genesis 3, God (called by a different name, i.e., LORD) couldn’t find Adam and Eve in a little forest, apparently didn’t know that they would eat the apples (or knew, and didn’t care about the consequences), and allegedly punished them for disobeying his orders (even though it was his mistake to prevent them from knowing the difference between good and evil; thereby, preventing them from knowing that it was ‘good’ to obey his orders and ‘bad’ not to).

More incoherency in the picture of God appears in the rest of Genesis and in Exodus. For example, associated with the Noah flood myth, God admits that he made a mistake by making humans (whereas an omniscient god wouldn’t make mistakes) and then, upon mercilessly (not benevolently) killing all life (save for the few survivors in Noah’s ark), God allegedly created rainbows to remind himself not to do it again! Also, associated with the Tower of Babel myth, he’s unable to see from afar what humans are doing (i.e., neither omniscient nor omnipresent) and then, upon seeing that humans were making progress, he purposefully inhibits their progress by creating a “babel” of languages (not benevolently). Similarly, associated with the Sodom and Gomorrah myth, he’s unable to see from afar the activities in those cities, and after chatting with God for awhile, Abraham is able to convince God to alter his plans (not omniscient). Later, Joseph wrestles with God, God’s supposed omnipotence was reduced to being able to appear to Moses as a burning bush, Egyptian priests matched essentially all of God’s magic tricks (not omnipotent), and God resorted to the certainly not-benevolent tactic of killing all the Egyptian first-borne.

A specific illustration is available in one of the weirdest passages in the OT (at Exodus 4, 24–26), in which Moses’ wife (Zipporah) stops God from killing Moses. Since this passage doesn’t seem to get the press that it deserves, I’ve added a few notes in square brackets to the following quotation (taken from The New English Bible):
During the journey [of Moses back to Egypt], while they [Moses and his family] were encamped for the night, the LORD met Moses, meaning to kill him. [Hello? Moses was on “a mission for the Lord”? Why the change of heart? Why does God now propose to kill Moses? Did the Lord have second thoughts about choosing the murderer Moses as his “profit”? Did God have second thoughts about making the Pharaoh obstinate, so he could kill all the Egyptian first-born? Did he realize that, once again, he had made a mistake? Or once again, did he just forget what his plan was? Where are those damn rainbows when you need them?!] but Zipporah picked up a sharp flint, cut off her son’s foreskin, and touched him with it, saying, “[I’m the fastest draw and the fastest cutter in the region, and] you are my blood-bridegroom.” So [startled by the speed with which she cut the kid and shocked by being whipped across the face (or whatever) with the bloody foreskin of Moses’ son (who was screaming in agony), and yet once again totally fascinated by foreskins], the LORD let Moses alone. [But, but: if God is omnipotent, how could he be overpowered by a woman wielding a bloody foreskin? If he’s omniscient, why didn’t he see it coming? And what’s with his sensitivity about being called a “blood-bridegroom”? Is that why he later demanded: “Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain”?!]
Now, I admit that, from the above, it’s not clear whom Zipporah zapped with the zipped skin. In the second to last sentence, if the reader goes backward from the pronoun ‘him’ to the nearest noun, ‘him’ seems to refer to her son – but that seems odd: why cut the kid’s foreskin just to whip the kid with it? And although incest is apparently approved in the Bible (e.g., witness the “righteous man” Lott and his daughters), I doubt if Zipporah was claiming that her son was her “blood-bridegoom”.

On the other hand, maybe it’s the way that Ancient Hebrews played the game of tag, with instead of saying, “You’re it”, saying, “You’re my blood-bridegroom.” If so, maybe that explains why so many Jews have been so studious. I can imagine a mother saying (in a sing-song, seductive voice), “Come on, son, it’s time to go out and play”, to which her son responds (after murmuring to himself, “Not with my bloody foreskin you’re not”): “Sorry, mom, I gotta study!”

In any event, recognizing what appears to be an error in the composition (namely, a dangling pronoun – which, come to think of it, seems to be a highly appropriate description of God: a dangling pronoun), readers are probably left with the question: Does ‘him’ refer to Moses or God? I’ll leave it for readers to decide, but will provide the following “help” by quoting the supposedly identical story in the King James Version of the Bible (Exodus 4, 24–26):
And it came to pass by the way in the inn, that the Lord met him and sought to kill him. Then Zipporah took a sharp stone, and cut off the foreskin of her son, and cast it at his feet, and said, “Surely a bloody husband art thou to me.” So he let him go; then she said, “A bloody husband thou art, because of the circumcision.”
I trust that that clears up quite a bit: maybe ‘omnipotent’ and ‘omniscient’ are still confusing, but what ‘omnipresent’ apparently means is that you can’t tell his feet from his face (or whatever). Or maybe it’s a word used to relay the fact that, ever since Zipporah zonked him with her kid’s zipped skin, nobody’s seen God: El Zippo! Be that as it may, what remains unclear for me is how any sane person could get a coherent picture of God from such crazy stories.

• In addition, the OT contains a number of statements that are out of time sequence (anachronisms), contradictory, illogical, etc., throwing in doubt, for example, the validity of the claim that the Pentateuch was written by Moses, that Joseph and Moses were as the OT claimed, that the exodus ever occurred, etc. For example, in his amazing 1929 book, The Story of Religious Controversy, and in particular, in Chapter VII entitled “The Forgery of the Old Testament”, Joseph McCabe gives the following examples (among others): Genesis claims that Abraham (or Abram) was from “Ur of the Chaldees”, but it wasn’t until roughly 500 years after Moses that the area became “the land of the Chaldees” (which then dates the writing to be at least 500 years after the date claimed), Genesis 12, 6 and 13, 7 state that “the Canaanite dwelled then in the land” (the obvious meaning of which is that they no longer dwelled there, again dating the writing), and as still another example, 1 Chronicles 24, 7 states that money was paid in “darics” (i.e., coins of the Persian Emperor Darius); “so, obviously, this was written long after [521] BCE (the first year of Darius I).”

Still other indications that “something’s amiss” include Moses describing himself as humble (an oxymoron) and detailing his own funeral and its aftermath (illogical), the statement “before there were kings in Israel” (it’s a wonder that the author didn’t write: “before the Dodgers moved to Los Angeles”!), and the listing of kings of Edom before those kings existed.

As Paine pointed out near the beginning of the 19th Century (in the article already referenced, entitled “Hints Toward Forming a Society for Inquiring into the Truth or Falsehood of Ancient History…”):
It would be of use to inquire, and ascertain the time, when that part of the Bible called the Old Testament first appeared. From all that can be collected there was no such book till after the Jews returned from captivity in Babylon, and that it is the work of the Pharisees of the Second Temple. How they came to make Kings 19 and Isaiah 37 word for word alike, can only be accounted for by their having no plan to go by, and not knowing what they were about. The same is the case with respect to the last verses in 2 Chronicles and the first verses in Ezra; they also are word for word alike… [which the reader might want to check, to confirm that something’s definitely amiss!]
By the end of the 19th Century, a society such as Paine envisioned was formed (although not officially, as far as I know), leading to the Documentary Hypothesis (or Document Theory or Graf-Wellhausen Hypothesis), summarized in Wikipedia as follows:
The documentary hypothesis… proposes that the first five books of the Old Testament (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy, known collectively as the Torah or Pentateuch) represent a combination of documents from originally independent sources. According to the influential version of the hypothesis formulated by Julius Wellhausen (1844–1918), there were four main sources, and these sources and the approximate dates of their composition were:

• The J, or Jahwist, source; written c. 950 BCE in the southern kingdom of Judah. (The name ‘Yahweh’ begins with a J in Wellhausen’s native German.)

• The E, or Elohist, source; written c. 850 BCE in the northern kingdom of Israel.

• The D, or Deuteronomist, source; written c. 621 BCE in Jerusalem during a period of religious reform.

• The P, or Priestly, source; written c. 450 BCE by Aaronid priests.

The editor who combined the sources into the final Pentateuch is known as R, for Redactor, and might have been Ezra.
The Wikipedia article summarizes the Documentary Hypothesis as follows:
According to Wellhausen, the four sources present a picture of Israel’s religious history, which he saw as one of ever-increasing centralization and priestly power. [Italics added] Wellhausen’s hypothesis became the dominant view on the origin of the Pentateuch for much of the 20th Century. Most contemporary Bible experts accept some form of the documentary hypothesis [Stephen L. Harris, Understanding the Bible, Palo Alto, Mayfield, 1985], and scholars continue to draw on Wellhausen’s terminology and insights. [Gordon Wenham, “Pentatueuchal Studies Today”, Themelios 22.1 (October 1996)]
Of course, criticism of the Documentary Hypothesis is extensive, not only from religious fundamentalists (convinced that the Bible is the “inerrant word of God”) but even from many “main-stream” religious people, who commonly claim that “the Holy Spirit” (or similar) was (quite literally) a “ghost writer” for the entire Bible. Illustrative is the Catechism of the Catholic Church (United States Catholic Conference, Inc. - Liberia Editrice Vaticana, 1997, #111):
…since Sacred Scripture is inspired, there is another and no less important principle of correct interpretation, without which Scripture would remain a dead letter. Sacred Scripture must be read and interpreted in the light of the same Spirit by whom it was written.
Riiiiiight. Similar has been said for centuries. Paine’s summary in his 1794 book The Age of Reason seems to be an appropriate response:
Whenever we read the obscene stories, the voluptuous debaucheries, the cruel and torturous executions, the unrelenting vindictiveness, with which more than half the Bible is filled, it would be more consistent that we called it the word of a demon than the Word of God. It is a history of wickedness that has served to corrupt and brutalize mankind; and for my own part, I sincerely detest it, as I detest everything that is cruel.
Robert Ingersoll (1833–1899) said similar:
All that is necessary, as it seems to me, to convince any reasonable person that the Bible is simply and purely of human invention – of barbarian invention – is to read it. Read it as you would any other book; think of it as you would of any other; get the bandage of reverence from your eyes; drive from your heart the phantom of fear; push from the throne of your brain the coiled form of superstition – then read the Holy Bible, and you will be amazed that you ever, for one moment, supposed a being of infinite wisdom, goodness and purity, to be the author of such ignorance and of such atrocity… We are told in the Pentateuch, that god, the father of us all, gave thousands of maidens (after having killed their fathers, their mothers, and their brothers) to satisfy the brutal lusts of savage men. If there be a god, I pray him to write in His book, opposite my name, that I denied this lie for Him.
An unidentified author at Religious Tolerance.Org summarizes as follows:
Writing by various authors, according to the documentary hypothesis:

J: a writer who
• focuses on humanity in his writing.
• might possibly have been a woman. His/her writing shows much greater sensitivity towards women than does E.
• regularly used “JHWH” as God’s name.
• describes God in anthropomorphic terms: God formed Adam from clay; he walked and talked with Adam and Eve in the garden; he spoke to Moses.
• lived in the southern kingdom of Judah, during an early period of Israel’s history when they followed a nature/fertility religion. May have been a member of the Judean court.
• wrote a more or less complete story of the history of the Israelites from a Judean perspective.
• J was probably written between 848 BCE (when King Jehoram gained power in Judah) and 722 BCE when the Assyrians destroyed the northern kingdom Israel and took its people into exile. Some scholars date J to the 10th century BCE.

E: a writer who
• writes about religious and moralistic concerns.
• in all probability was a man.
• consistently used “Elohim” as God’s name.
• lived in the northern kingdom of Israel.
• wrote a more or less complete story of the history of the Israelites from the perspective of the northern kingdom, including that version of the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20.
• probably wrote between 922 and 722 BCE.
• may have been a priest from Shiloh who viewed Moses as his spiritual ancestor.

D: a writer who
• lived after J and E, because he was familiar with later developments in Israel’s history. He lived at a time when the religion of ancient Israel was in its spiritual/ethical stage, about 622 BCE.
• wrote almost all of book of Deuteronomy, as well as Joshua, Judges, 1 & 2 Samuel and 1 & 2 Kings. A second writer edited the original text after the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians in 587 BCE. He added the last two chapters to 2 Kings and inserted short passages elsewhere to reflect the change in circumstances brought about by the Babylonian attack.
• lived in Judah, probably in Jerusalem.
• was probably a Levitical priest, perhaps Jeremiah.

P: a writer who
• focused his writings on God.
• added material from a priestly perspective. It discusses priests’ lives, religious rituals, dates, measurements, chronologies, genealogies, worship and law.
• was a priest who identified Aaron as his spiritual ancestor.
• views God as a distant, transcendent deity, less personal than in J and E; sometimes harsh and critical. The words “mercy,” “grace” and “repentance” do not appear in his writing; they appear about 70 times in J, E, and D.
• was displeased with the work of J and E and wrote P as an alternative history.
• rejected the concepts of angels, dreams and talking animals that are seen in J & E.
• believed that only Levites who were descended from Aaron could be priests.
• lived after J, E and D, because he was aware of the books of the Prophets, which were unknown to the others. Lived when the country’s religion reached a priestly/legal stage, before the destruction of Jerusalem in 587 BCE.
• patterned his writing after the topics in J and E.

R: a redactor who
• was an Aaronid priest and thus definitely a male.
• joined the writings of J, E, P and D together into the present Pentateuch…

How the Pentateuch evolved, according to the documentary hypothesis:

Friedmann [R.E. Friedman, Who Wrote the Bible?, Harper Collins, San Francisco, CA, 1997, pp. 87-88] suggests that when the Assyrians conquered the northern kingdom in 722 BCE, many refugees streamed south into Judea, bringing their sacred writing “E” with them. Subsequently, E and J were combined into a single document, referred to as “JE.”

D was written perhaps a century later. It was conveniently “discovered” in the temple by the priest Hilkiah in 622 BCE, shortly after it was written. [See 2 Kings 22, 8] D was then joined with JE

P was written before the death of King Josiah in 609 BCE, probably during the reign of King Hezekiah. It was written as an alternative to JE.

R combined J, E, P and other documents together into the first four books of the Hebrew Scriptures. To this, he added D’s writings, the book of Deuteronomy, to complete the Pentateuch. By the time that he did the editing, the JE, D and P documents were in wide circulation. Each was supported by various factions. R saw his task as attempting to join these sources together into a more or less cohesive, single document. Friedmann suspects that Ezra was the redactor [R].
The resulting “time line” envisioned, suggesting how at least the first part of the OT was put together, is as shown in the figure below (with time at the left, labeled with dates Before the Current Era, i.e., BCE). In this scheme, “the redactor” (Ezra?) completed the Pentateuch sometime after 450 BCE.

As I reviewed in an earlier chapter, the OT, itself, contains evidence that Ezra was the “redactor”, R (or one of the redactors). Yet, it might be useful to re-examine the biblical evidence (and associated archeological evidence), if for no other reason than to get a clearer idea of what’s meant by the “sanitized” word ‘redactor’ (or ‘editor’). From the evidence to be shown, a ‘redactor’ appears to be someone who “edits” (or better, forges) old manuscripts – more commonly called a ‘liar’.

The accusation that Ezra forged historical records can be made quite confidently, because the original of one of the documents that he “redacted” has been found, namely, the Cylinder of Cyrus. Before examining the Cylinder of Cyrus, however, the reader might usefully be reminded of a little history. In particular, during one of his expansion campaigns the king of Babylonia (Nebuchadnezzar) overran Israel (possibly first in 605 BCE and then again in 598 BCE), smashed the temple that the Israelites had built for their chief (but not only) god (Yahweh), and took at least some of the Jews back to Babylon. Approximately three generations later, in 539 BCE, the king of Persia (Cyrus the Great or Cyrus II, who ruled from 559–530 BCE) conquered Babylon – and then treated the Israelites amazingly well. Specifically, as reported in the Bible’s Book of Ezra 1, 1–4 (quoted here from the King James Version of the Bible, for reasons to be explained):
Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia… the LORD stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and put it also in writing [italics added], saying:

“Thus saith Cyrus king of Persia, the LORD God of heaven hath given me all the kingdoms of the earth; and he hath charged me to build him an house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah.

“Who is there among you of all his people? his God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem, which is in Judah, and build the house of the LORD God of Israel, (he is the God) which is in Jerusalem.

“And whosoever remaineth in any place where he sojourneth, let the men of his place help him with silver, and with gold, and with goods, and with beasts, beside the freewill offering for the house of God that is in Jerusalem.”
That’s really quite amazing: Cyrus, the King of Persia, finding Israelite captives in Babylon and that their temple had been destroyed by the King of Babylonia, said to them, in effect: “You can go home, now, and rebuild your temple.”

Further, according to Ezra 1, 7–11, Cyrus returned to the custody of the Israelites even the “treasures” taken from their destroyed temple:
Also Cyrus the king brought forth the vessels of the house of the LORD, which Nebuchadnezzar had brought forth out of Jerusalem, and had put them in the house of his god. Even those did Cyrus king of Persia bring forth by the hand of Mithredath the treasurer, and numbered them unto Sheshbazzar, the prince of Judah [italics added, for reasons to be explained]… All the vessels of gold and of silver were five thousand and four hundred. All these did Sheshbazzar bring up with them of the captivity that were brought up from Babylon unto Jerusalem.
That’s even more amazing: the king of Persia, Cyrus the Great, arguably the most powerful person in the world (and certainly the most powerful person in the Middle East) not only told the Israelites that they could go home, but he gave to Sheshbazzar (or Shezbazzar), for their return to Jerusalem, 5400 “vessels of gold and silver”, which Nebuchadnezzar had taken from the Israelites’ destroyed temple.

As might be expected, the Jews were overjoyed. In fact (if there’s any accuracy in what’s reported in the Bible), the captive Israelites proclaimed Cyrus as “the Messiah”, a title that they never had (and have never since) given to any other foreigner – and didn’t give even to a famous person of their own bloodline, namely, Jesus (if he ever existed). Specifically, Isaiah 45, 1–3 states:
Thus says the LORD to Cyrus his anointed [italics added], Cyrus whom he has taken by the hand to subdue nations before him and undo the might of kings; before whom gates shall be opened and no doors be shut: “I will go before you and level the swelling hills; I will break down gates of bronze and hack through iron bars. I will give you treasures from dark vaults, hoarded in secret place, that you may know that I am the LORD…”
First reading of the above quotation might not reveal that Cyrus was described as “the Messiah”, but Sir Laurence Gardner’s lecture entitled “The Hidden History of Jesus and the Holy Grail” explains:
The word ‘Messiah’ comes from the Hebrew verb ‘to anoint’, which itself is derived from the Egyptian word messeh, ‘the holy crocodile’. It was with the fat of the messeh that the Pharaoh’s sister-brides anointed their husbands on marriage. The Egyptian custom sprang from kingly practice in old Mesopotamia.
That is, calling Cyrus the Lord’s “anointed” is the same as proclaiming him “the Messiah”, i.e., the anointed one. But whatever way the passage is read, it certainly was “high praise” for the Jews to give a foreigner.

Apparently, however, not all Israelites were pleased with so much praise for Cyrus. Thus, seemingly in response to criticism, Isaiah responded (Isaiah 45, 9):
Will the pot [you objecting people] contend with the potter [God], or the earthenware with the hand that shapes it? Will the clay ask the potter what he is making? Or his handiwork say to him, “you have no skill”? Will the babe say to his father, “What are you begetting?”, or to his mother, “What are you bringing to birth?” Thus says the LORD… Would you dare question me concerning my children or instruct me in my handiwork? I alone, I made the earth and created man upon it; I, with my own hands, stretched out the heavens and caused all their host to shine. I alone have roused this man [Cyrus] in righteousness, and I will smooth his path before him… [and besides, it’s my ball; so, this is the way we’re gonna play – thus sayeth the priests!]
Maybe that response cowered the Jews ~2500 years ago, but for the rest of us, questions abound, such as: Does the story make sense? Why was Cyrus so generous? Who was Sheshbazzar, i.e., the fellow who was given the 5400 “vessels of gold and silver”? And most significantly: Is the story reliable?

In partial response to such questions, starting with the last one (Is the story reliable?), the answer seems to be: only partially. Thus, rather foolishly, Ezra (who comes into the story approximately a century after Cyrus) wrote in the above quotation (or subsequent clerics who rewrote the “Book of Ezra” wrote) that Cyrus “put it [the proclamation] also in writing.” If true, and if a person plans to “stretch the truth”, then it’s generally a good idea not to lie about something for which conflicting evidence might become available – which has occurred.

Thus, in 1879 the archaeologist Hormuzd Rassam found what’s now called the “Cylinder of Cyrus” in the foundations of the Esagila, the temple of the chief god of Babylon, Marduk. Photographs of the approximately 10 inch (25 cm) clay “barrel” (or cylinder) are available at many places on the internet (e.g., at a Wikipedia article). Although parts of the cylinder are damaged, the following is the translation (originally translated, I think, by A. Leo Oppenheim) of Cyrus’ proclamation, “paraphrased from the Ancient East, Vol. 1: An Anthology of Pictures, edited by James B. Pritchard.” To this translation I’ve added the comments in “square brackets” [such as these]; I don’t know who added the comments shown in the parentheses (such as these) or “squiggly brackets” {such as these}, but I suspect it was Oppenheim, who thereby was identifying either parts of the text that required English interpolation or parts of the text that were missing or damaged.
…{r}ims (of the world)… a weakling [Cyrus is probably referring to Nebuchadnezzar or his son, Nabonidus] has been installed as the enu {Sumerian title for king} of his country {the correct images of the gods he removed from their thrones, imi}tations he ordered to place upon them. A replica of the temple Esagila he has… for Ur and the other sacred cities inappropriate rituals… daily he did blabber {incorrect prayers}. He (furthermore) interrupted in a fiendish way the regular offerings, he did… he established within the sacred cities. The worship of Marduk, the king of the gods, he {chang}ed into abomination; daily he used to do evil against his (i.e., Marduk’s) city… He {tormented} its {inhabitant}s with corvee-work (lit., a yoke) without relief, he ruined them all.

Upon their complaints the lord of the gods became terribly angry and {he departed from} their region, (also) the (other) gods living among them left their mansions, wroth that he [Nebuchadnezzar or his son] had brought (them) into Babylon. (But) Marduk {who does care for}… on account of (the fact that) the sanctuaries of all their settlements were in ruins and the inhabitants of Sumer and Akkad had become like (living) dead, turned back (his countenance) {his} an-{ger} {abated} and he had mercy (upon them). He scanned and looked (through) all the countries, searching for a righteous ruler willing to lead him [i.e., Marduk] (in the procession).

(Then) he pronounced the name Cyrus (Ku-ra-as), king of Anshan, declared him (lit, pronounced) {his} name to be(come) the ruler of all the world. He made the Guti country and all the Manda hordes bow in submission to his (Cyrus’s) feet. And he (Cyrus) did always endeavor to treat according to justice the black-headed whom he (Marduk) has made him conquer. Marduk, the great lord, a protector of his people/worshipers, beheld with pleasure his (i.e., Cyrus’s) good deeds and his upright mind (lit., heart) (and therefore) ordered him to march against his [Marduk’s] city Babylon.

He made him set out on the road to Babylon, going at his side like a real friend. His widespread troops – their number, like that of the water of a river, could not be established – strolled along, their weapons packed away. Without any battle, he made him enter his [i.e., Marduk’s] town Babylon, sparing Babylon any calamity. He delivered into his (i.e., Cyrus’s) hands Nabonidus, the king who did not worship him (i.e., Marduk). All the inhabitants of Babylon as well as of the entire country of Sumer and Akkad, princes and governors (included), bowed to him (Cyrus) and kissed his feet, jubilant that he (had received) the kingship, and with shining faces. Happily they greeted him as a master through whose help they had come (again) to life from death (and) had all been spared damage and disaster, and they worshiped his [Cyrus’s] (very) name.

I am Cyrus, king of the world, great king, legitimate king, king of Babylon, king of Sumer and Akkad, king of the four rims (of the earth), son of Cambyses (Ka-am-bu-zi-ia), great king, king of Anshan, grandson of Cyrus, great king, king of Anshan, descendent of Teispes (Si-is-pi-is), great king, king of Anshan, of a family (which) always (exercised) kingship whose rule [the gods] Bel [Marduk] and Nebo [or Nabu, the god of wisdom and writing, alleged son of Marduk, after whom Nebuchadnezzar and his son Nabonidus were named] love, whom they want as king to please their hearts.

When I entered Babylon as a friend and (when) I established the seat of the government in the palace of the ruler under jubilation and rejoicing, Marduk, the great lord, {induced} the magnanimous inhabitants of Babylon {to love me}, and I was daily endeavoring to worship him. My numerous troops walked around in Babylon in peace, I did not allow anybody to terrorize (any place) of the {country of Sumer} and Akkad. I strove for peace in Babylon and in all his (other) sacred cities.

As to the inhabitants of Babylon, {who} against the will of the gods {had/were…, I abolished} the corvee {the yoke of oppression} which was against their (social) standing. I brought relief into their dilapidated housing, putting (thus) an end to their (main) complaints. Marduk, the great lord, was well pleased with my deeds and sent friendly blessings to myself, Cyrus, the king who worships him, to Cambyses, my son, the offspring of {my} loins as well as to all my troops, and we all {praised} his great {godhead} joyously, standing before him in peace.

All the kings of the entire world from the Upper to the Lower Sea, those who are seated in throne rooms, (those who) live in other {types of buildings as well as} all the kings of the West land living in tents [possibly meaning the Arabs], brought their heavy tributes and kissed my feet in Babylon. (As to the region) from… as far as Ashur and Susa, Agade, Eshnunna, the towns Zamban, Me-Turnu, Der as well as the region of the Gutians, I returned to (these) sacred cities on the other side of the Tigris, the sanctuaries of which have been ruins for a long time, the images which (used) to live therein and established for them permanent sanctuaries. I (also) gathered all their (former) inhabitants and returned (to them) their habitations. Furthermore, I resettled upon the command of Marduk, the great lord, all the gods of Sumer and Akkad whom Nabonidus has brought into Babylon to the anger of the lord of the gods [Marduk] unharmed, in their (former) chapels, the places which made them happy. [Italics added]

May all the gods whom I have resettled in their sacred cities ask daily Bel and Nebo for a long life for me and may they recommend me (to him); to Marduk, my lord, they may say this: “Cyrus, the king who worships you, and Cambyses, his son…”… all of them I settled in a peaceful place ducks and doves… I endeavored to fortify/repair their dwelling places… (six lines destroyed).
Thus, the original of the proclamation by Cyrus paints a very different picture from the one in the Bible. The picture in the OT is that of Cyrus recognizing the Hebrew god Yahweh as the “chief god”. Thus, as quoted above from Ezra 1, 2 (but quoted, below, from the New English Version of the Bible):
This is the word of Cyrus king of Persia: The LORD the God of heaven has given me all the kingdoms of the earth, and he himself has charged me to build him a house at Jerusalem in Judah.
That’s not what Cyrus wrote! In the above-quoted Cylinder of Cyrus, Cyrus clearly states that Marduk was “the king of the gods”, and that it was Marduk (not Yahweh) who wanted all the “lesser gods” (such as Yahweh) returned to their cities:
I resettled upon the command of Marduk, the great lord, all the gods of Sumer and Akkad whom Nabonidus has brought into Babylon to the anger of the lord of the gods [Marduk] unharmed, in their (former) chapels, the places which made them happy.
Therefore, more descriptive than to suggest that Ezra (or whoever wrote Ezra) was a “redactor” would be to say that he was a “distorter”.

Which then raises additional questions, such as: 1) Did Ezra (or whoever the “redactor” was) deliberately distort the historical record? 2) Was Ezra just mistaken? Did he have access to Cyrus’ original statement? 3) What evidence supports the proposal that Ezra was the “redactor” (or one of the redactors) of the OT? 4) Does other archeological evidence support the accusation that Ezra (and co-conspirators) forged historical records? and 5) If there were “priestly fabrications” of the historical records, what was the purpose (or purposes) of such fabrications? In the rest of this post and in posts to follow, I’ll try to address those questions (as well as the remainder of the questions asked earlier).

With respect to the possibility that Ezra deliberately distorted the historical record, of course we can’t know for sure, not only because it’s not known for certain what historical records were available to him but also because it’s always difficult to determine another person’s intent. But given (as outlined below) that Ezra seems to have had access to the Royal Archives as “minister of Jewish affairs” for the Persian king and given (as also outlined below) that Ezra profited substantially from his writings, suspicion seems appropriate – similar to suspicions that the current President of Iran has ulterior motives in denying the Holocaust and that former US Supreme Court justice William Rehnquist had ulterior motives for misrepresenting the history of the separation of religion and state in Wallace v. Jaffree (472 U.S. 38), 1985.

As to why Cyrus “repatriated” all the lesser gods such as Yahweh (besides Cyrus’ stated desire to make these other gods “happy”), the question could be rephrased as: Why would the repatriation make Cyrus happy? It may be, of course, that similar to modern-day religious people, Cyrus “truly believed” that the world was full of supernatural beings such as spirits and gods, and that for his own and his son’s welfare, he was required to do whatever he thought those spirits and gods wanted. On the other hand, though, hints suggest that Cyrus was a competent politician who used religion to “manipulate the masses” for his own advantage – similar to the behaviors of essentially all “modern” American politicians.

One such hint can be found by addressing one of the other questions that I listed above: Who was Sheshbazzar (or Shezbazzar)? Above, in the first quote dealing with Sheshbazzar, I quoted the King James Version of the Bible, because in it (at Ezra 1, 8), Sheshbazzar is described as “the prince of Judah”. In a later section (Ezra 5, 14), recounting what had happened, the King James Version states:
And the vessels also of gold and silver of the house of God, which Nebuchadnezzar took out of the temple that was in Jerusalem, and brought them into the temple of Babylon, those did Cyrus the king take out of the temple of Babylon, and they were delivered unto one, whose name was Sheshbazzar, whom he [Cyrus] had made governor [italics added].
In the New English Bible (noted for its care in translating original texts) the description of Sheshbazzar is even more explicit. At the same locations in the Bible, Sheshbazzar is called (Ezra 1, 8) “the ruler of Judah [italics added]”, and at Ezra 5, 14 it states (essentially as in the King James Version): “He [Cyrus] gave them [the vessels of gold and silver] to a man named Sheshbazzar, whom he had appointed governor…”

So, maybe why Cyrus gave back the Israelites all the gold and silver (and similarly for other groups) makes some sense: basically, he didn’t! Instead, in an amazingly astute political move, Cyrus bought the allegiance of the Israelites (and other groups, similarly) by storing “their” (i.e., his!) gold and silver plates in “their” (i.e., his!) land, which was to be ruled by “their” (i.e., his!) assigned “governors” / “rulers” / “princes” (e.g., Sheshbazzar). It was thus a brilliant move by Cyrus: it didn’t cost him anything (since all he did was use a new building in newly acquired land, governed by one of his own henchmen, to store some of his enormous reserves of gold and silver), and in return, he received astounding praise and loyalty from the “liberated people” (such as the Israelites) – as well as, of course, annual “tributes” (i.e., taxes). Maybe never has a politician paid so little to gain so much!

More indications of Cyrus’ competence are given in the Encyclopedia Britannica article on the history of Iran:
Nowhere did Cyrus display his political and military genius better than in the conquest of Babylon. The campaign actually began when he lulled the Babylonians into inactivity during his war with Lydia, which, since it was carried to a successful conclusion, deprived the Babylonians of a potential ally when their turn came. Then he took maximum advantage of internal disaffection and discontent within Babylon. Nabonidus was not a popular king. He had paid too little attention to home affairs and had alienated the native Babylonian priesthood. Second Isaiah, speaking for many of the captive Jews in Babylon, was undoubtedly not the only one of Nabonidus’ subjects who looked to Cyrus as a potential deliverer. With the stage thus set, the military campaign against Babylon came almost as an anticlimax. The fall of the greatest city in the Middle East was swift; Cyrus marched into town in the late summer of 539 BC, seized the hands of the statue of the city god Marduk as a signal of his willingness to rule as a Babylonian and not as a foreign conqueror [italics added], and was hailed by many as the legitimate successor to the throne. In one stride Cyrus carried Persian power to the borders of Egypt, for with Babylon came all that it had seized from the Assyrians and had gained in the sequel.
Additional information about Cyrus can be gleaned from the stories about him in The History written by Herodotus in 440 BCE. As my dictionary states, Herodotus is commonly known as “the first historian to collect his materials systematically, test their accuracy to a certain extent, and arrange them is a well-constructed and vivid narrative.” His standards, however, left a lot to be desired. Yet, although a substantial amount of what Herodotus reported is of questionable reliability as history, he did record stories that people reported to him (and did so, during the same time period as when Ezra was “redacting” the OT).

From reading the stories retold by Herodotus, I speculate that maybe Cyrus wasn’t religious at all. Thus, although Cyrus the Great (Cyrus II) would have been expected to be a Zoroastrian (as was his grandfather, Cyrus I), the interpretation of his grandfather’s dream by Zoroastrian priests (Magi), an interpretation that (so Herodotus reports) led to his grandfather ordering the infant Cyrus II killed (an execution that he obviously averted, but he was then raised by shepherds), probably led to “no love lost” between Cyrus II and the Magi (and their religion). I wouldn’t be surprised, therefore, if when Cyrus conquered Babylon, he found it just as easy to feign religious conviction for the Babylonian gods (whose “chief god” was Marduk) as I suspect he feigned being a Zoroastrian, whose “chief god” was Auramazda or Ahura-Mazda or Ahura Mazda, “the Lord of Wisdom” or "Omniscient Lord" - and after whom the Mazda car is named.

Some historians, however, suggest that Cyrus was a sincere Zoroastrian. Illustrative is the following written by Richard Hooker:
The Persians throughout their history, such as we know it, lived peacefully in the region just north of the Persian Gulf (modern day Iran). For the most part, they were left unbothered by the epic power struggles broiling to the west in Mesopotamia, Palestine, and Egypt. They were Indo-European peoples who spoke a language similar to Sanskrit and who worshipped gods very similar to the gods of the Vedic period in India. Life was hard in the region they controlled; the coastline afforded no harbors and the eastern region was mountainous. Only a few interior valleys supported the peoples; in part because of the geography, the Persians never really united into a single peoples but rather served as disparate vassal states to the Medes, who, from their capital at Ecbatana, controlled the area east of the Tigris River.

In this state, somewhere around 650 BCE, a new religion suddenly took hold. While we know little or nothing about the Persians in this period, we know the man who invented this new religion. Called Zarathustra (Zoroaster in Greek), his new religion and new gods captivated the spiritual and social imagination of the Persians. In its roughest outlines, Zoroastrianism is a dualistic religion; in Zarathustra’s cosmos, the universe was under the control of two contrary gods, Ahura-Mazda, the creating god who is full of light and good, and Ahriman, the god of dark and evil. These two evenly matched gods are in an epic struggle over creation; at the end of time, Ahura-Mazda and his forces will emerge victorious. All of creation, all gods, all religions, and all of human history and experience can be understood as part of this struggle between light and dark, good and evil. Zoroastrianism, however, is a manifestly eschatological religion: meaning and value in this world is oriented towards the end of history and the final defeat of Ahriman and all those gods, humans, and other animate forces arrayed on the dark side of creation.

It is not possible to underestimate how Zoroastrianism changed the Persian world and its sense of its own community. If the world and human history could be understood as an epic struggle between good and evil, a struggle whose ultimate trajectory is the establishment of good throughout the universe and the defeat of evil, then one’s own role, as an enlightened people, in the world becomes vastly different. This political role in the world was put together by Cyrus, called The Great.

Cyrus was a first in human history, for he was the first to conceive of an idea that would forever fire the political and social imaginations of the people touched by the Persians. That idea? Conquer the world.

Up until Cyrus, no culture or individual had ever really thought this one up. Territorial conquests, like monarchical power, were justified on religious grounds, but these religious grounds never gave rise to the notion that one’s religious duty was to conquer the whole of the world as you knew it. [An idea pursued even today by Iran’s president Ahmadinejad.]

In 559 BC, Cyrus became the chief of an obscure Persian tribe in the south of Persia. A devoted Zoroastrianism, he believed that his religious duty was to bring about the eschatological promises of Zoroastrianism through active warfare. If the universe was an epic struggle between the forces of Ahura-Mazda and the forces of evil, Cyrus [saw] his job as personally bringing about the victory of his god. As an extension of this, Cyrus would bring Zoroastrianism to all the peoples he conquered; he would not force them to become Zoroastrian, though. For Zoroastrianism recognized that all the gods worshipped by other peoples were really gods; some were underlings of Ahura-Mazda and some were servants of Ahriman. Cyrus saw as his mission the tearing down of religions for evil gods and the shoring up of religions of gods allied with Ahura-Mazda…
Other historians, however, don’t seem to feel so confident as Hooker seems to be that they know Cyrus’ thoughts.

In any event, regardless of Cyrus’ motives, the building of a new temple in Jerusalem got underway – and continued by fits and starts. To hint about how historical events influenced the creation of the OT, the following brief summary may be useful. First, many Jews obviously didn’t accept Cyrus’ offer, permitting them to return home. With Babylon probably the most dynamic city in the world at the time, it appears to be a case of: “How are ya gonna keep them down on the farm [Judea] after they’ve seen Paris [Babylon].” In any event, the usual chronology for the return is:
The first return to Judah for the Jews came shortly after the Persian conquest of Babylon, 538 BC (Ezra 1, 1), led by Sheshbazzar. The second came 80 years later, in the seventh year of Artaxerxes I, 458 BC (Ezra 7, 7), led by Ezra. And the third came 13 years after the second, in the 20th year of Artaxerxes I, 444 BC (Neh. 2, 1), led by Nehemiah.
As indicated below, however, some scholars doubt the above chronology.

It also might be useful to display the following historical outline, not only to comment on religious affiliations of the Persian kings but also to indicate why confusion remains about the OT’s chronology. When Cyrus died (in 529 BCE), his son Cambyses II reigned for 7 years, from 529–522 BCE; in 525 BCE he conquered Egypt; so (I’ll note for later use), the Persians and Israelites still in Babylon could easily have become familiar with Egyptian history. The next Persian emperor, Darius I (“Darius the Great”, who ruled from 521–486 and, during that time, attacked Greece) was unquestionably a Zoroastrian, as can still be seen on his many inscriptions that archeologists have found, such as
Darius the King says: By the favor of Ahura Mazda I am King; Ahura Mazda bestowed the kingdom upon me…

A great god is Ahura Mazda, who created this earth, who created yonder sky, who created man, who created happiness for man, who made Darius king, one king of many, one lord of many.

Darius the King says: By the favor of Ahura Mazda I am of such a sort that I am a friend to right, I am not a friend to wrong. It is not my desire that the weak man should have wrong done to him by the mighty; nor is that my desire, that the mighty man should have wrong done to him by the weak.
After Darius I came his son, Xerxes I (486–465 BCE, who conquered Athens but lost subsequent battles with the Greeks). He was also a Zoroastrian, as seen on the inscriptions:
Xerxes the Great King says: By the favor of Ahura Mazda this palace Darius the King built, who was my father. May Ahura Mazda together with the gods protect me, and what was built by me, and what was built by my father Darius the King, that also may Ahura Mazda together with the gods protect…

If you wish to be happy when living and blessed when dead, have respect for the law established by Ahura Mazda and worship him and truth reverently. The man who has respect for the law established by Ahura Mazda and worships him and the truth reverently, such a man becomes happy while living and blessed when he is dead.
After Xerxes I, his son, the relatively unsuccessful Artaxerxes I Macrocheir (Latin = Longimanus = “long-handed”, his right hand being longer than his left) ruled the Persian Empire from 465–424 BCE. He seems to have interacted with Ezra – but it may have been Artaxerxes II.

After Artaxerxes I came Xerxes II, who reigned for only 45 days, when he was murdered, apparently on order from one of his brothers, who then reigned for six months and who, in turn, was murdered by his “bastard” brother Ochus (son of Artaxerxes I and a concubine), who adopted the name Darius II. He ruled from 423 to 404 BCE and allied with Sparta in the Peloponnesian War against Athens; he was succeeded by his son Artaxerxes II.

I don’t know if inscriptions have been found that demonstrate that Artaxerxes I was a Zoroastrian, but it seems highly likely, since inscriptions of both his son and grandson show that they were, e.g.,
Artaxerxes II Mnemon (“the mindful”, reigned 404–358 BCE): “Artaxerxes the King says: By the favor of Ahura Mazda I am king in this great earth far and wide; Ahura Mazda bestowed the kingdom upon me. May Ahura Mazda protect me, and the kingdom which he bestowed upon me, and my royal house.”

Artaxerxes III (reigned 358–338 BCE): “I am the son (of) Artaxerxes the King, (of) Artaxerxes (who was) the son (of) Darius the King, (of) Darius (who was) the son (of) Artaxerxes the King, (of) Artaxerxes (who was) the son (of) Xerxes the King, (of) Xerxes (who was) the son (of) Darius the King, (of) Darius (who was) the son of Hystaspes by name, of Hystaspes (who was) the son (of) Arsames by name, an Achaemenian. Artaxerxes the King says: May Ahura Mazda and the god Mithra protect me, and this country, and what was built by me.”
During this reign of Artaxerxes I (or possibly during the reign of Artaxerxes II) is when Ezra enters the picture. According to the OT (Ezra 3 – 6), the building of the new temple in Jerusalem was stopped by complaints to Artaxerxes (I or II?) that “the Jews… are rebuilding that wicked and rebellious city.” Subsequently, however, “the governor of the province of Beyond-Euphrates” sent a message to King Darius (I or II?), stating (Ezra 5, 6):
“To King Darius, all greetings… if it please Your Majesty, let search be made in the royal archives in Babylon, to discover whether a decree was issued by King Cyrus for the rebuilding of this house of God in Jerusalem. Then let the king send us wishes in the matter.”
Such a decree was allegedly discovered – thereby suggesting both that the Persians maintained good libraries and that at least some Jews (such as “the minister of Jewish affairs”, Ezra) likely had access to the Persian libraries.

As a result of the discovery of the decree, the OT states (Ezra 6, 6) that Darius (I or II?) issued the order to permit the continued building of the temple in Jerusalem. The OT then reports (Ezra 7, 1–26):
After these events [italics added, events which seem to be, in order: complaint to Artaxerxes I, request to Darius II, permit to continue from Darius II, and now, approval from Artaxerxes II], in the reign of Artaxerxes [II?] king of Persia, there came up from Babylon one Ezra… He was a scribe learned in the law of Moses… In the seventh year of King Artaxerxes [which would be in 458 BCE if is meant Artaxerxes I, but seems more likely to be 397 BCE, i.e., in the seventh year of the reign of Artaxerxes II]… the king granted him [Ezra] all that he asked… This is a copy of the royal letter which King Artaxerxes gave unto Ezra the priest, the scribe, even a scribe of the words of the commandments of the LORD, and of his statutes to Israel [quoted here from the King James Version of the Bible]:

“Artaxerxes, king of kings, unto Ezra the priest, a scribe of the law of the God of heaven…

“I make a decree… Forasmuch as thou art sent of the king, and of his seven counselors, to inquire concerning Judah and Jerusalem, according to the law of thy God which is in thine hand [italics added]… And thou, Ezra, after the wisdom of thy God, that is in thine hand [italics added], set magistrates and judges, which may judge all the people that are beyond the river, all such as know the laws of thy God; and teach ye them that know [the laws] not. And whosoever will not do the law of thy God, and the law of the king, let judgment be executed speedily upon him, whether it be unto death, or to banishment, or to confiscation of goods, or to imprisonment.”
If that’s true (and I don’t know if it is, because I don’t know if the original of this “letter” has been found – but I doubt it), then it’s really quite amazing: the king of Persia, Artaxerxes (either I or II), who ruled the largest empire that the world had ever known, gave Ezra absolutely sweeping powers, not only to teach the Israelites “the law” [which Artaxerxes said (to Ezra) was contained in a book “in thine hand”] but also to enforce this law in any way Ezra saw fit “whether it be unto death, or to banishment, or to confiscation of goods, or to imprisonment.” Thereby, Ezra and fellow priests had Persian approval for almost unlimited power – to create a theocracy.

To his continuing infamy, Ezra’s first theocratic act was to initiate a program of “ethnic cleansing” – and I suspect that it’s Ezra’s racism that permeates the entire OT. At Ezra 10, 10 his hideousness is summarized as follows:
Ezra the priest stood up and said: “You have committed an offence in marrying foreign wives and have added to Israel’s guilt. Make your confession now to the LORD the God of your fathers and do his will, and separate yourselves from the foreign population and from your foreign wives.”
The OT then describes how the foolish Israelites accepted Ezra’s demands (which, as in all theocracies, are claimed to be God’s demands) and “dismissed” (i.e., abandoned) their “foreign” wives and their children – I suppose to fend for themselves or to starve to death. Thus, Ezra and his fellow theocrats apparently learned nothing from Cyrus the Great about how to rule; they just ruled.

Yet, whatever the exact dates, much occurred during the time period from Cyrus to Ezra, including (apparently) the creation of the Old Testament, complete with a new, “universal” god, similar to the Zoroastrian god Ahura Mazda (rather than Abraham’s personal god or the mountain and warrior god of Moses). And as given in OT, the Israelites were stunned by the new stories they learned about their “new and improved god” as described in the new “law of thy God” in Ezra’s new book. Thus, as described in Nehemiah 8, 1–10:
When the seventh month came, and the Israelites were now settled in their towns, the people assembled… and Ezra the scribe was asked to bring the book of the law of Moses, which the LORD had enjoined upon Israel. On the first day of the seventh month, Ezra the priest brought the law before the assembly… He read from it… from early morning till noon… all the people listened attentively to the book of the law. Ezra the scribe stood on a wooden platform made for the purpose, and beside him stood Mattithiah, Shema, Anaiah, Uriah, Hilkiah, and Maaseiah [possible co-authors (or better, co-conspirators)] on his right hand; and on his left [other possible co-authors (or better, co-conspirators) – all needed to show the people that the priests were united in their conspiracy, were] Pedaiah, Mishael, Malchiah, Hashum, Hashbaddanah, Zechariah, and Meshullam… And day-by-day, from the first day to the last, the book of the law of God was read…

Then Nehemiah the governor and Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who instructed the people, said to them all, “This day is holy to the LORD your God; do not mourn or weep.” For all the people had been weeping while they listened to the words of the law [italics added]…
It was, apparently, a very moving set of stories told by Ezra et al. – stories that the people had apparently never heard before (or never heard in such detail).

Subsequently, Ezra and other “high priests” proceeded to expand their theocratic rule over the Israelites. Illustrative of their power grab is the report at Nehemiah 9:
On the twenty-fourth day of this month the Israelites assembled for a fast, clothed in sackcloth and with earth on their heads. Those who were of Israelite descent separated themselves from all the foreigners; they took their places and confessed their sins and the iniquities of their forefathers. Then they stood up in their places, and the book of the law of the LORD their God was read for one fourth of the day, and for another fourth they confessed and did obeisance to the LORD their God…

“Because of all of this [as given in the new story about Moses et al.] we [people assembled] make a binding declaration in writing, and our princes, our Levites, and our priests witness the sealing… swearing to obey God’s law given by Moses the servant of God [i.e., swearing to obey the priests!], and to observe and fulfill all the commandments of the LORD our Lord, his rules and his statutes [of course including paying the priests plenty for running their protection racket].”
What a con game! In “Babylon Nurtures the Jewish Priesthood”, Kenneth Humphreys summarizes as follows [to which I’ve added a couple of notes in “square brackets”]:
With the rise of Cyrus, and the Persian conquest of Babylonia, an undreamt of opportunity was presented to the pious ‘elders’ of the Jews. Cyrus was a self-styled ‘Great King’, anxious to have all gods on his side for the conquest of empire. This included a Yahweh cult in the satrap [or province] of Judea. Accordingly, many of the Jews (mostly descendants of the original exiles) were returned to the old homeland…

Temple City
These descendants were sent back under Prince Sheshbazzar to set up a temple to help the Persian war effort. Its design – a succession of courtyards set high on a hill, at its heart enclosing a ‘holy of holies’ – was inspired by the multi-level temple ziggurats (which ‘reached up to heaven’) that the Jews had seen in Mesopotamia. Under the patronage of Cyrus, and despite the local opposition of Jews who had never left, the ‘children of Judah’, established a theocratic colony on the Persian model under an appointed Persian governor. Persian rule of Judah [with the collusion of the priests] would last two centuries.

Before the exile, Jewish religion – such as it was – had Man facing an anthropomorphic, capricious tribal God, who looked for obedience rather than worship to assuage his anger. It was, apparently [or, at least, according to the redactor’s version of the myth] Abraham’s unswerving obedience when asked by Yahweh to sacrifice his son that validated his choice as ‘Patriarch.’ But at least obedience was within the wit of man himself… By abrogating to themselves the when and how of placating/ honoring the gods the earthly power of the priesthood was assured.

The theology changed to reflect the new organization. Yahweh was elevated to sole god and was deemed to require endless sacrifice to placate his wrath. Thus all Jews acquired a duty to bring offerings to the priests (who were thereby freed of more mundane tasks). Not only did this give the priesthood their daily provisions and a major slice of the butchery business but also control over the lucrative leather trades. In time, tribute to the priesthood was extended to include tithes, dispensation fees, and commission on money changing (only the ‘clean’ shekel could be offered at the temple; no other coinage was acceptable).

Taking their cue from Zoroastrianism, the dominant religion of Persia, the returnees brought with them not only priestly monopoly and control over worship (and in a theocracy that implied control over law and social behavior as well) but also the notion of an evil god (Satan) as a counterpoise to good god (Yahweh). Similarly, for the first time Judaism acquired angels and demons. [Although it appears that these ideas surfaced substantially later, because 1) most biblical scholars date at least the final version of the Book of Daniel much later (i.e., after 167 BCE) than the dates in the story, 2) Paine, for example, suggests that the Book of Job wasn’t even written by a Jewish author, and 3) McCabe, for example, suggests that Ecclesiastes was written by a Greek follower of Epicurus (341–270 BCE) – save for the last few lines, which were “redacted” for the benefit of the priests.] At this point appears the curious tale of an idyllic garden (shades of Babylon), a satanic snake and a disobedient female – which nicely explained why life was full of wickedness, why women should be subjugated and why there was death itself.

The Persians made no images of their dual gods, but for them fire represented purity and was an incarnation of the light god [Ahura] Mazda. On the other hand, matter (including the human body) was created by the dark god Angra Mainyu. In stark contrast, therefore, to the earlier influence of fertility rites of the Canaanite and Phoenician cities – the celebration of life – the Yahweh cult now became at heart hostile to the body. Human sexuality was to cause the priests more distress than any amount of bloodshed.

And bloodshed there was, as the colonizers (the ‘Golan’) drove out (and de-Judaized!) the original inhabitants (the Am Ha-Aretz or ‘people of the land’), whom they were forbidden to marry. The arrival of an organized priesthood acted as a brake on secular development which might otherwise have produced a local monarch, albeit one under Persian dominance. Both Nehemiah, ‘cup-bearer’ to the Persian king [i.e., taster, to determine if the cup contained poison], and Ezra, his ‘minister of Jewish affairs’ [and therefore, probably with access to Persian libraries] introduced interpretations and refinements of ‘the Law’ which kept Jewish piety compatible with the interests and security of the empire. With a brutal ruthlessness, for example, Ezra commanded Jews to ‘send away’ their foreign wives and children. “Membership of Israel was now confined to the descendants of those who had been exiled in Babylon.” (Karen Armstrong, A History of Jerusalem, Harper Collins, 1999, p.102).
All the above, however, barely begins to describe the clerical skullduggery involved in concocting a new (Zoroastrian-style) religion for the Jews, but to thoroughly expose the skullduggery is a humongous task. In the next post, I’ll tackle a little of it, again relying essentially exclusively on investigations done by others.

In summary, what the Jewish priests got out of their collusion with the Persians was power. What the poor Israeli people got out of the experience was a theocracy – and a book: a book that told them that the creator of the universe, no less, had chosen them, but because their forefathers had been so wicked (i.e., had disobeyed the priests, or so the stories go), the people had been punished (never mind any theory that people should be punished only for their own mistakes and never mind the obvious explanation for all the Israelites’ troubles, namely, that their forefathers had chosen to live on land that was little more than a military route between major powers).

The new book told the people about their (fabricated) history, heroes, and laws. The new book told the people their purpose in life. And most importantly of all (according to the book and the priests), the new book told the people to obey their parasitic priests – to carry their useless carcasses. And any protestations to the contrary notwithstanding, the people learned that their true God, the one they truly worshipped, wasn’t YWHY (whose name they weren’t permitted even to speak or write!) but was their book.

And similar is still true for all the Abrahamic religions. Thus, and regardless of their claims, Christians don’t love Jesus; they love, they bury themselves in, they become delusional over, they killed to protect… their book (the New Testament). Similarly, Muslims don’t love Allah (or Muhammad); they love, they bury themselves in, they become delusional over, they still kill to protect… their book (the Quran). And similarly for the Mormons: madly in love with their Book of Mormon. In turn, in all cases, they love their books because they love themselves – since all such books tell the “true believers”, the “chosen people”, that their otherwise miserable lives have no less than “cosmic significance” and that they (and they alone) are “the good people”, in “cosmic conflict” with the horrible “evil doers” (the unbelievers, infidels, atheists…), exactly as Zoroaster speculated, without a scrap of evidence to support his wild speculations.

It’s crazy; as someone else said, “It’s egotism gone berserk.” If people want to bury themselves in books, how about Mayo’s Jefferson Himself or Thoreau’s Walden or Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland or Edberg’s At the Foot of the Tree or Watts’ Cloud-Hidden, Whereabouts Unknown or Hardin’s The Tragedy of the Commons or Russell’s The History of Western Philosophy or Rand’s Atlas Shrugged or Harris’ The End of Faith… or Morse and Feshbach’s Methods of Theoretical Physics?

Or how about Feynman’s Lectures on Physics? Now there’s a series of books (Feynman’s) for which people should receive a prize for studying so intensely that they essentially memorize them, able to quote “chapter and verse”! In fact, they would receive an astounding prize: in contrast to religious kooks, they’d gain some understanding about reality.