Berossus and Genesis

Discussion about the Hebrew Bible, Septuagint, pseudepigrapha, Philo, Josephus, Talmud, Dead Sea Scrolls, archaeology, etc.
User avatar
billd89
Posts: 814
Joined: Thu Jun 25, 2020 6:27 pm
Location: New England, USA

Re: Cleo

Post by billd89 »

Secret Alias wrote: Wed Nov 02, 2022 2:18 pm
The account of Josephus in The Jewish War,[4] refers to the Onias who built the Temple at Leontopolis as "the son of Simon", implying that it was Onias III, and not his son, who fled to Egypt and built the Temple. ... Onias now requested the king and his sister-wife, Cleopatra, to allow him to build a sanctuary in Egypt similar to the one at Jerusalem, where he would employ Levites and priests of his own clan;[7] and he referred to the prediction of the prophet Isaiah[8] that a Jewish temple would be erected in Egypt.[9]
Was Cleopatra "Ruth" ?

There were, of course, many Cleopatras...
Image
andrewcriddle
Posts: 2361
Joined: Sat Oct 05, 2013 12:36 am

Re: Berossus and Genesis

Post by andrewcriddle »

neilgodfrey wrote: Fri Nov 04, 2022 5:45 am Anyone interested in following up further discussion concerning the Japheth Greek-Genesis link, an article by Bruce Louden is currently accessible at https://sci-hub.se/10.5406/illiclasstud.38.0001 -- Louden draws findings from a range of sources to identify four connections:
  • the corresponding names, Iapetus / Japheth,
  • the altered sequence given of the punished sons,
  • the connection with the eponymic Ion / Javan,
  • and the closely corresponding wordplay.

    (p. 19)
Louden in part explains the similarities in terms of a shared culture, via Phoenicians, for example.
It is an interesting article but it does depend on linking Ham 'seeing Noah's nakedness' to the castration of Ouranos by Kronos. Which I'm afraid I find very speculative.

Andrew Criddle
User avatar
neilgodfrey
Posts: 5420
Joined: Sat Oct 05, 2013 4:08 pm

Re: Berossus and Genesis

Post by neilgodfrey »

andrewcriddle wrote: Sat Nov 05, 2022 3:38 am
neilgodfrey wrote: Fri Nov 04, 2022 5:45 am Anyone interested in following up further discussion concerning the Japheth Greek-Genesis link, an article by Bruce Louden is currently accessible at https://sci-hub.se/10.5406/illiclasstud.38.0001 -- Louden draws findings from a range of sources to identify four connections:
  • the corresponding names, Iapetus / Japheth,
  • the altered sequence given of the punished sons,
  • the connection with the eponymic Ion / Javan,
  • and the closely corresponding wordplay.

    (p. 19)
Louden in part explains the similarities in terms of a shared culture, via Phoenicians, for example.
It is an interesting article but it does depend on linking Ham 'seeing Noah's nakedness' to the castration of Ouranos by Kronos. Which I'm afraid I find very speculative.

Andrew Criddle
There is more to the 23 page article than the castration narrative. I don't know if we have the same understanding of "linked" when you say Louden "links" the two events. What I took away of far more weight was the "linking" of Japheth with Javan -- and their respective Greek words -- and the biblical "linking" of "Javan/Ion" to the Greeks, specifically colonies in Cyprus and Rhodes in particular.

What interested me also was the narrative role given Noah compared with Adam -- and in turn how those roles are traditionally those of deities (in particular here Greek/West Mediterranean).

(And that's where I began to glimpse for the first time, at least as far as I recall, the some metaphorical meaning of castration: the reaping of the "fruit-bearing apparatus" or grain.)

The point is that scholars aside from West, and since West's East Face, have long noted the striking parallel of the names -- and that they are unique to the Greek and biblical literary worlds.

It is not a half-baked idea of a few nobodies with idle speculation. The name is evidently an echo of the Greek name with no doubt. One can say (as West does in another context but part of the same discussion) that it is coincidence, but what counts against the coincidence explanation is the raft of structural and thematic similarities in the respective narratives. Louden would add the very specific placings of puns at two critical points in each narrative.
rgprice
Posts: 1113
Joined: Sun Sep 16, 2018 11:57 pm

Re: Berossus and Genesis

Post by rgprice »

Another thing strikes me about Genesis 1-11. It seems to me that even the earliest commentaries and interpretations of Gen 1-11 are all incorrect.

Jubilees and Enoch, for example, both interpret the "sons of God" as heavenly angels. Early on efforts were made to interpret the apparent terrestrial nature of Yahweh as allegorical. Jews adn Samaritans both interpreted Elohim as meaning "a single God so grand that he is referred to in the plural", despite the fact that the text uses "we" and "us" in multiple places. Various ways of explaining this away quickly developed as we see in 2nd Temple literature.

What all of this indicates to me is that, much like the Pauline letters, the readers of these texts were not actually theologically aligned with the writer and didn't really understand the perspective and theology of the writer.

In other words, much as many can now acknowledge that the writer of the original Pauline letters did not hold the views of 2nd century proto-orthodox Christians, so to the writer of Genesis 1-11 was not a holder of what came to be seen as orthodox Jewish/Samaritan beliefs.

The way that these texts were later used was not in line with the intentions of their creators.

Again, it seems to me that the best explanation for Gen 1-11 is that Gen 1-11 was the last addition to the Pentateuch, by a Hellenist, who intended to create an introduction with broad universal appeal to a body of work that was otherwise focused only on the Israelites. This Hellenist was not a strict monotheist and did not share the views of the writers of the rest of the Torah.

I'm struck by the fact that all of the earliest commentaries on the Torah, like the Mekhilta of Rabbi Ishmael, rely on deciphering the meaning of written language. Clearly, even these earliest scholars had no knowledge of who wrote these works or any traditions that stemmed from them. The way to understand the stories was through meticulous study of what was written, because that is all there was to go by. It was a writing that had to be deciphered. Same goes for Philo. Philo's exegesis comes from his reading of the written word.

This is not what happens with oral traditions or with ideas that are popularly held within a community. If my dad wrote a journal or a memoir, and I were asked the meaning or context of certain stories in his writing, I wouldn't need to dissect the language he used on the page. I would understand the stories in the context either that I experienced them myself or that he told me about himself. If he wrote an account of something in his childhood, most likely he also told me a story about it too, and I would bring what he told me to my understanding of what he wrote.

But these scholars tried 100% on the written word because they actually had nothing else to go on.
StephenGoranson
Posts: 1105
Joined: Thu Apr 02, 2015 2:10 am

Re: Berossus and Genesis

Post by StephenGoranson »

rgp: "It seems to me that even the earliest commentaries and interpretations of Gen 1-11 are all incorrect."

Such a claimed absolute.
Commentators had no influence from interim texts--nor any oral tradition?
Russell Gmirkin
Posts: 112
Joined: Sat Sep 17, 2016 11:53 am

Re: Berossus and Genesis

Post by Russell Gmirkin »

rgprice wrote: Sun Nov 06, 2022 9:53 am Another thing strikes me about Genesis 1-11. It seems to me that even the earliest commentaries and interpretations of Gen 1-11 are all incorrect.

Jubilees and Enoch, for example, both interpret the "sons of God" as heavenly angels. Early on efforts were made to interpret the apparent terrestrial nature of Yahweh as allegorical. Jews adn Samaritans both interpreted Elohim as meaning "a single God so grand that he is referred to in the plural", despite the fact that the text uses "we" and "us" in multiple places. Various ways of explaining this away quickly developed as we see in 2nd Temple literature.

What all of this indicates to me is that, much like the Pauline letters, the readers of these texts were not actually theologically aligned with the writer and didn't really understand the perspective and theology of the writer.

In other words, much as many can now acknowledge that the writer of the original Pauline letters did not hold the views of 2nd century proto-orthodox Christians, so to the writer of Genesis 1-11 was not a holder of what came to be seen as orthodox Jewish/Samaritan beliefs.

The way that these texts were later used was not in line with the intentions of their creators.

Again, it seems to me that the best explanation for Gen 1-11 is that Gen 1-11 was the last addition to the Pentateuch, by a Hellenist, who intended to create an introduction with broad universal appeal to a body of work that was otherwise focused only on the Israelites. This Hellenist was not a strict monotheist and did not share the views of the writers of the rest of the Torah.

I'm struck by the fact that all of the earliest commentaries on the Torah, like the Mekhilta of Rabbi Ishmael, rely on deciphering the meaning of written language. Clearly, even these earliest scholars had no knowledge of who wrote these works or any traditions that stemmed from them. The way to understand the stories was through meticulous study of what was written, because that is all there was to go by. It was a writing that had to be deciphered. Same goes for Philo. Philo's exegesis comes from his reading of the written word.

This is not what happens with oral traditions or with ideas that are popularly held within a community. If my dad wrote a journal or a memoir, and I were asked the meaning or context of certain stories in his writing, I wouldn't need to dissect the language he used on the page. I would understand the stories in the context either that I experienced them myself or that he told me about himself. If he wrote an account of something in his childhood, most likely he also told me a story about it too, and I would bring what he told me to my understanding of what he wrote.

But these scholars tried 100% on the written word because they actually had nothing else to go on.
You may not have yet read my latest (2022) book, Plato's Timaeus and the Biblical Creation Accounts: Cosmic Monotheism and Terrestrial Polytheism in the Primordial History, where I deal at length with a lot of these issues. Although Genesis 1-11 was written/designed as a prologue to the rest of the Pentateuch, it is clear that the Decalogue sabbath commandment (which purposely conflates Genesis 1 Elohim with Yahweh) is dependent on the creation account. Both cosmic monotheism in Genesis 1 and explicit terrestrial polytheism in Genesis 2-11 derive from Plato's Timaeus and Critias (a literary influence I suppose one could characterize as Hellenistic). You are correct that the monolatry (not yet monotheism) of Exodus-Joshua was scandalized by the multiple terrestrial gods (including Yahweh Elohim) of the Primordial History and that later texts such as Jubilees, Enoch and all the rest sanitized the account by reinterpreting the numerous gods (Elohim) of Genesis 6 as angels (Jubilees) or Watchers (Enoch). Enoch also has Watchers in the Garden of Eden, probably under the influence of the multiple Elohim in Eden at Gen. 3:22 (and Gen. 2:18 LXX). Yahweh is still manifestly a terrestrial god (such as were common in Greek mythology) throughout Genesis.
rgprice
Posts: 1113
Joined: Sun Sep 16, 2018 11:57 pm

Re: Berossus and Genesis

Post by rgprice »

Yes, I have read your most recent book. I like your interpretation of Genesis, but I'm not entirely sold on certain aspects. The interpretation of the second creation story isn't a slam dunk. There isn't a clear distinction between the creator of heaven and earth and the creator of man in the existing texts. There are various texts that use Elohim and YHWH-Elohim alternatively, but it never seems to align exactly with Elohim being the supreme creator with Yahweh being the lesser.

But also, in your most recent book you of course see all of this as having taken place at roughly the same time. In Berossus and Manetho you cited the position that Genesis 1-11 was added last. I still favor this position.

You state:
In this manner, the cosmic transcendent god of Genesis, the philosophical example of goodness, was effectively subjugated and overthrown by the authors of Exodus–Joshua to become the terrestrial voice of petty nationalistic and cultic interests. The rejection of the philosophical monotheism of Genesis 1 in favor of the terrestrial monolatry of Exodus–Joshua in essence constituted a stasis led by an entrenched priesthood resistant to any limitation of their traditional religious offices and political leaders seeking to expand the national boundaries.

But it seems more likely to me that Genesis 1-11 was added last, by someone who knew the rest of the material. I think this is further suggested by the potential relationship of the ending of Deuteronomy to Genesis 1-11, indicating either than the same person/group wrote the ending of Deuteronomy and Genesis 1-11 or that the ending of Deuteronomy was written after the Genesis 1-11 making it the final-final addition to the work. But I do find it curious that the only place "sons of God" are mentioned in the Pentateuch is Genesis 6 and Deuteronomy 32.

Above you seem to indicate that the writers of Exodus–Joshua "rejected" Genesis 1-11, but this seems unlikely. More likely, the writer(s) of Genesis 1-11 trying to moderate Exodus–Joshua. Exodus–Joshua came first or indeed Genesis 12-Joshua came first, and then later writer(s) wanted to make the nationalistic narrative more universal and Hellenistic.

This would imply that the final editor of the collection was the writer(s) of Genesis 1-11. Why else would Genesis 1-11 be allowed to stand? If the writers of Gen 12-Joshua really didn't like what Genesis 1-11, then why would they accept it? They wouldn't. But if the writer of Genesis 1-11 was last and had the final say, then that's why it would remain in place. So it seems to me that the writer(s) of Genesis 1-11 took a nationalistic Israelite history and appended a Hellenistic story of universalism onto the beginning, not necessarily with the approval of the writers of the nationalistic history.
User avatar
Secret Alias
Posts: 15357
Joined: Sun Apr 19, 2015 8:47 am

Re: Berossus and Genesis

Post by Secret Alias »

There isn't a clear distinction between the creator of heaven and earth and the creator of man in the existing texts.
He got that from Philo and Philo is the oldest interpretation of Genesis. There is a lot to like about this. It's just figuring out the Jewish schism. Fitting it all in a timeline. But we have to recognize Philo's interpretation is the oldest and is Platonic.
User avatar
neilgodfrey
Posts: 5420
Joined: Sat Oct 05, 2013 4:08 pm

Re: Berossus and Genesis

Post by neilgodfrey »

andrewcriddle wrote: Thu Nov 03, 2022 9:01 am a/ the connection is dubious.
b/ Since Iapetos is probably Semitic in origin the direction of dependence would be unclear.
See East Face of Helicon

Andrew Criddle
of interest (to me, anyway) -- from page 123 of a chapter on Japheth by David Neiman:
Japheth of the Old Testament is, in origin, lapetos of the Greek mythology.26 lapetos is the Titan, the father of Prometheus, who is the forerunner, the creator, and the progenitor of man.27

Many biblical scholars have for many years rejected the identification of Japheth with lapetos, for reasons which were never stated.28 The reasons are, however, not difficult to surmise. It had been the view of biblical scholars for over a century (and many have still not rid themselves of this view) that ancient Israel had no knowledge of ancient Greece and that the two worlds, of Hellas and of Israel, knew nothing one of the other.29 To find, therefore, a figure from Hellenic literature in the Old Testament was dismissed as highly improbable. This view is completely erroneous. Israel and Greece had intimate contacts from the moment that both of these nations entered upon their historical encounter in the eastern Mediterranean world at the end of the 13th century B.C.30

The biblical writer knew the traditions of the Greeks and utilized this information in his complilation of the family tree of the world’s peoples in his Table of Nations in Gen 10.
The footnotes:
26 Iliad, VIII:479; Hesiod, Theogony, 507-616; Apollodorus, Library, I, 5, 13.

27 Hesiod, Theogony, 48, 50-58, 507-510, 614. Apollodorus, Library, I, 7, 1.

28 E.g., G. Von Rad, Genesis, A Commentary (1961), 134.

29 E.g., The Abingdon Bible Commentary, ed. F.C. Eiselen, (1929), 227: “The geographical knowledge of the day evidently did not extend as far as continental European Greece.”

30 As pointed out by C.H. Gordon in “Homer and Bible: The Origin and Character of East Mediterranean Literature,”in HUCA 26 (1955), 43-108; in Before the Bible (1962), and in Ugarit and Minoan Crete (1966); and by David Neiman, in “The Date and Circumstances of the Cursing of Canaan,” in Biblical Motifs: Origins and Transformations (1966), 113-134.
The above is from
  • Neiman, David. “The Two Genealogies of Japheth.” In Orient and Occident: Essays Presented to Cyrus H. Gordon on the Occasion of His Sixty-Fifth Birthday, edited by Harry A. Hoffner, 119–26. Alter Orient Und Altes Testament, Bd. 22. Kevelaer, Neukirchen-Vluyn: Butzon & Bercker; Neukirchener Verlag, 1973.
On the #28 G. Von Rad reference, on page 138 of the 1972 edition of his commentary he writes "in bemusement"(?):
From Greek mythology we know of a Iapetos, the father of Prometheus, but we see no clear connection with the biblical use of the name.
The connection clearly does not necessarily hang from a Hellenistic dating for Genesis. Neiman puts Genesis in the pre-classical Greek era of Homer.
Post Reply