Origins of Jewish monotheism: Gmirkin vs Isaiah...

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rgprice
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Re: Origins of Jewish monotheism: Gmirkin vs Isaiah...

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neilgodfrey wrote: Sat Aug 27, 2022 7:43 am Gmirkin, I think, is attempting to explain how the idea of Jewish-Samaritan monotheism came about and does not explore how society itself changed -- though it evidently did, whether or not we accept Gmirkin's theory.
True, but his proposal has societal implications. You can't work from only the texts and propose a model of how texts may have been produced based on textual evidence alone, if that proposal is entirely impractical societally.

It would seem from what Gmirkin is proposing that as of 280 BCE Judeans were worshiping Asherah, Yahweh, Baal, El, and many, many others, having never heard of Moses, David, Solomon, etc. and then by of 250 or at least 200 BCE at least hundreds of thousands of Judeans worshiped only one God and tied their heritage to Moses, David, Solomon, etc. That seems very difficult to believe.
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neilgodfrey
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Re: Origins of Jewish monotheism: Gmirkin vs Isaiah...

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rgprice wrote: Sat Aug 27, 2022 8:03 am
neilgodfrey wrote: Sat Aug 27, 2022 7:43 am Gmirkin, I think, is attempting to explain how the idea of Jewish-Samaritan monotheism came about and does not explore how society itself changed -- though it evidently did, whether or not we accept Gmirkin's theory.
True, but his proposal has societal implications. You can't work from only the texts and propose a model of how texts may have been produced based on textual evidence alone, if that proposal is entirely impractical societally.
They are two different questions, aren't they? We can see how texts came together from comparative literary studies. But what status those texts had in a society, how people treated them and what they thought of them, etc... that's a separate question.
rgprice wrote: Sat Aug 27, 2022 8:03 am It would seem from what Gmirkin is proposing that as of 280 BCE Judeans were worshiping Asherah, Yahweh, Baal, El, and many, many others, having never heard of Moses, David, Solomon, etc. and then by of 250 or at least 200 BCE at least hundreds of thousands of Judeans worshiped only one God and tied their heritage to Moses, David, Solomon, etc. That seems very difficult to believe.
I don't know to what extent all of that is in his thesis, but I would need to double check some details. Why do you say "by 250 or at least 200 BCE"?

How do we explain the total absence of any names like Moses, David, Solomon etc Elephantine papyri -- in the fifth century BCE?
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neilgodfrey
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Re: Origins of Jewish monotheism: Gmirkin vs Isaiah...

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The earliest Greek writers who mention the Jews thus provide no external
evidence of new developments in the evolution of the Torah. At the time of the
Elephantine Papyri (494-ca. 400 BCE) we have authoritative Jewish priestly
regulations, but no evidence that these had been committed to writing. The
Elephantine Papyri also testify to toleration of practices contrary to the Pentateuch.
As late as ca. 315 BCE, Theophrastus described contemporary sacrificial
practices among the Jews that the Hebrew Bible condemns as heterodox. The
first mention of Moses as Jewish founder and lawgiver occurred in Hecataeus's
Aegyptiaca in 320-315 BCE; Manetho also mentioned Moses probably not long
thereafter. Neither author attributed writings to Moses, although both appear to
have viewed him as the lawgiver of the Jews.32 Other than the disputed fragment
ofHecataeus in Diodorus Siculus, Library 40.3, the Septuagint translation is the
first definite evidence of Jewish writings.
p. 38 of Gmirkin's Berossus and Genesis https://www.scribd.com/document/4763503 ... the-Date-o
ABuddhist
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Re: Origins of Jewish monotheism: Gmirkin vs Isaiah...

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StephenGoranson wrote: Sat Aug 27, 2022 5:25 am And it beggars belief to imagine these people so supine.
We are not talking about their being supine, but rather about their being mislead about the antiquity of their sacred texts. Such things happen all the time: the Book of Mormon, Mahayana Buddhist Sutras, the Abhdhamma Pitaka, the Book of Enoch, and many books within the Christians' scriptures. People, in general, seem to be quite ready to be led towards believing that they are reading or hearing or venerating old texts in religious contexts - especially when religious authorities (perhaps with vested interests in claiming that the books are old) tell them so.
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Re: Origins of Jewish monotheism: Gmirkin vs Isaiah...

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neilgodfrey wrote: Sat Aug 27, 2022 5:27 am
ABuddhist wrote: Sat Aug 27, 2022 3:55 am
Russell Gmirkin wrote: Fri Aug 26, 2022 8:02 pm But most biblical prophecy, including Second Isaiah, belong to the late Hellenistic Era of literary (that is, written) prophecy.
What about Ezekiel's prophecy about Tyre's destruction? was that a post-exilic fabrication, or a genuine piece of pro-Babylonian propaganda from the exile?
Charles Torrey on that Ezekiel passage:
There is another late prophecy in which a similar alteration of the text has given a false interpretation to the meaning of the writer. Ezekiel 26, as it stands in our Bible, predicts the successful siege and utter destruction of Tyre by Nebuchadrezzar. As a matter of fact, the siege of this city by Nebuchadrezzar was not succesful, and —· what is more to the point — Ezekiel himself says in plain language and with emphasis that it was not. In 29 18 ff. are these words: »Son of man, Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon caused his army to serve a great service against Tyre; every head was made bald and every shoulder was peeled; yet had he no wages, nor his army, from Tyre, for the service that he had served against it. There- fore, thus saith the Lord God: I will give the land of Egypt unto Nebuchadrezzar .... and it shall be the wages for his army. I give him the land of Egypt as his recompence for which he served.« This is a perfectly unambiguous statement of what we know to have been the case; the long siege of Tyre by the Babylonian king was a failure.

In 26 7 the words מלך בבל נבוכדראצר are a palpable insertion, disturbing the structure of the sentence in which they stand. The original reading was this: »Behold, I will bring upon Tyre from the north a king of kings«. Then follows a vivid description of the successful siege, and the capture of the city by the building of a mole and a causeway (vs. 8), over which the chariots of the victor are driven into the streets of the city (vs. 10 f.). This is a description of the capture of the city by the great »king of kings«, Alexander. No other hypo- thesis can stand beside this1.

1) Ezekiel 20 is not a later element in the book, but of one piece with the rest of the prophecy. The present writer has often expressed his opinion, formed on many other grounds and, for him, constantly confirmed, that the Book of Eze- kiel is in its entirety a composition dating from the Greek period.
Torrey, Charles C. “Alexander the Great in the Old Testament Prophecies.” In Alexander the Great in the Old Testament Prophecies, 281–86. De Gruyter, 2019 [Originally published1925]. 284-285. https://doi.org/10.1515/9783111327013-036.

Torrey's view of the Ezek 26 prophecy is compatible with Gmirkin's thesis.
Fair enough, but my major puzzle in that case is why the prophecy would have described Tyre as being made permanently uninhabited when Tyre has in fact never been completely abandoned. Is hyperbole the explanation?
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Re: Origins of Jewish monotheism: Gmirkin vs Isaiah...

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ABuddhist wrote: Sat Aug 27, 2022 8:57 am
StephenGoranson wrote: Sat Aug 27, 2022 5:25 am And it beggars belief to imagine these people so supine.
We are not talking about their being supine, but rather about their being mislead about the antiquity of their sacred texts. Such things happen all the time: the Book of Mormon, Mahayana Buddhist Sutras, the Abhdhamma Pitaka, the Book of Enoch, and many books within the Christians' scriptures. People, in general, seem to be quite ready to be led towards believing that they are reading or hearing or venerating old texts in religious contexts - especially when religious authorities (perhaps with vested interests in claiming that the books are old) tell them so.
Right, but this seems different. Many people converted to Mormonism and Christians still exist.

The Torah proposes that there already were thousands upon thousands of Jews who worshiped Yahweh and followed the laws of Moses living in Palestine at the time that the Torah would have been written. The Book of Mormon doesn't claim that all Americans were already Mormons. Anyone would be able to look around and see that that wasn't true.

The Torah essentially proposed that all the people of the society already believed a bunch of things that they did not yet believe.

And what of the Judeans who didn't adopt the Torah?

The only thing that seems to make sense is that there was some kind of conversion program that took place from around the time of the production of the Torah up to the Maccabean Revolt, and then once the Hasmoneans came to power, they really reshaped the region extensively. We know they engaged in mass forced conversions, but it would seem that these forced conversions much have been far more impactful and widespread than widely believed. The only thing that seems to make sense is that there was massive Jewish explosion in the second century BCE. During the 3rd century BCE Torah based Judaism must have still been relatively uncommon and weak.
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neilgodfrey
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Re: Origins of Jewish monotheism: Gmirkin vs Isaiah...

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rgprice wrote: Sat Aug 27, 2022 9:22 am
ABuddhist wrote: Sat Aug 27, 2022 8:57 am
StephenGoranson wrote: Sat Aug 27, 2022 5:25 am And it beggars belief to imagine these people so supine.
We are not talking about their being supine, but rather about their being mislead about the antiquity of their sacred texts. Such things happen all the time: the Book of Mormon, Mahayana Buddhist Sutras, the Abhdhamma Pitaka, the Book of Enoch, and many books within the Christians' scriptures. People, in general, seem to be quite ready to be led towards believing that they are reading or hearing or venerating old texts in religious contexts - especially when religious authorities (perhaps with vested interests in claiming that the books are old) tell them so.
Right, but this seems different. Many people converted to Mormonism and Christians still exist.

The Torah proposes that there already were thousands upon thousands of Jews who worshiped Yahweh and followed the laws of Moses living in Palestine at the time that the Torah would have been written.
What passages do you have in mind here?

rgprice wrote: Sat Aug 27, 2022 9:22 am
The only thing that seems to make sense is that there was some kind of conversion program that took place from around the time of the production of the Torah up to the Maccabean Revolt, and then once the Hasmoneans came to power, they really reshaped the region extensively. We know they engaged in mass forced conversions, but it would seem that these forced conversions much have been far more impactful and widespread than widely believed. The only thing that seems to make sense is that there was massive Jewish explosion in the second century BCE. During the 3rd century BCE Torah based Judaism must have still been relatively uncommon and weak.
Are there problems with that scenario? I think it is consistent with the archaeological evidence. Gmirkin writes at the end of Plato and the Creation of the Hebrew Bible:
It seems certain that by the early second century BCE the Jewish nation had
come to accept the biblical writings as an ancient literature authored by their
ancestors. The attachment of the Jews as a religion and as a people to their lit-
erature was and is extraordinary. No other nation in antiquity was so thoroughly
defined by its literature. In later times, the Jews would come to be known as “the
people of the book,” an apt description, because to an extraordinary degree the
Jews derived their distinctive culture, religion, ethics, laws, historical traditions
and sense of ethnic identity from their treasured national literature. Remarkably,
the Jewish people, religion, literature and way of life long outlived even the disas-
trous fall of the Jewish nation and its temple in 66-70 CE.171 Although one must
challenge both the exaggerated antiquity of the Jewish laws and the direction of
influence between Moses and Plato as claimed by Josephus, the historical persis-
tence of Jewish laws and literature after the time of Josephus matches and exceeds
even Josephus’ extravagant claims. If judged by “the test of time” (2.279-80),
the sacred biblical texts can be understood as perhaps the world’s most success-
ful experiment in social engineering, having created not one but two ethnoi- the
Samaritans and the Jews - that have successfully persisted for over 2,000 years
with an undiminished loyalty to their respective foundational national literatures,
much as Plato predicted. The Torah and the Hebrew Bible, understood as ancient
literary implementations of the program found in Plato’s Laws, demonstrate how
extraordinarily successful Plato’s legislative and literary strategies for nationbuilding
were when applied in the real world.
If a significant portion of the scribes and priests were engaged in the sort of re-education program similar to the one Plato recommended, then might we not expect some sort of success among a sizeable part of the population within a couple of generations?

The earliest evidence of knowledge of Moses as a founding figure of Israel is as late as 320-315 BCE. And Moses is understood as a typical Greek colonizing founder who took the Jews into Canaan and established cities, the temple and laws. In other words, a generation before 270 we have our first evidence of Moses and he has a role very different from the one we read about in the Pentateuch. That particular Hecataeus' account of Moses is the earliest knowledge of Moses we have, IIRC. And it presents Moses as a type of Greek colonizer similar to other Greek founding figures. That is evidence of a Greek influence on the Judean ideas of their history a generation prior to Gmirkin's date for the composition of the Pentateuch.

So changes were afoot prior to the Pentateuch -- as we would expect. The idea of the Pentateuch did not just drop down out of nowhere all of a sudden.
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Re: Origins of Jewish monotheism: Gmirkin vs Isaiah...

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One overview of the evidence for Persian era Judean religion is set out in the informative ....
  • Granerød, Gard. “Canon and Archive: Yahwism in Elephantine and Āl-Yāḫūdu as a Challenge to the Canonical History of Judean Religion in the Persian Period.” Journal of Biblical Literature 138, no. 2 (2019): 345–64. https://sci-hub.se/10.1353/jbl.2019.0018
Passover was known, but no evidence that this festival was connected with a religious myth.
Sabbath was known, but no evidence it was a day of taboos. And no myths are known to have been associated with it.
Temples for Yahweh in different places were accepted. (The Hasmoneans were the first to enforce a "no temple but Jerusalem" policy, yes?)

Another article provides some interesting insights into the state of the evidence and what conclusions can be or cannot be drawn from it:
  • Granerød, Gard. “‘By the Favour of Ahuramazda I Am King’: On the Promulgation of a Persian Propaganda Text among Babylonians and Judaeans.” Journal for the Study of Judaism 44, no. 4–5 (2013): 455–80. https://sci-hub.se/10.1163/15700631-12340387
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Re: Origins of Jewish monotheism: Gmirkin vs Isaiah...

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ABuddhist wrote: Sat Aug 27, 2022 8:59 am
Fair enough, but my major puzzle in that case is why the prophecy would have described Tyre as being made permanently uninhabited when Tyre has in fact never been completely abandoned. Is hyperbole the explanation?
I'm sure various commentaries would have something on that point to enlighten us. If Alexander left it an uninhabited ruin then I would expect the prophecy was written some time when it was still in that condition. Do you know when it was rebuilt or where, exactly (thinking it may not have been on the "rock" in the sea, the place that was destroyed by Alexander)?
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Re: Origins of Jewish monotheism: Gmirkin vs Isaiah...

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rgprice wrote: Sat Aug 27, 2022 8:03 am
neilgodfrey wrote: Sat Aug 27, 2022 7:43 am Gmirkin, I think, is attempting to explain how the idea of Jewish-Samaritan monotheism came about and does not explore how society itself changed -- though it evidently did, whether or not we accept Gmirkin's theory.
True, but his proposal has societal implications. You can't work from only the texts and propose a model of how texts may have been produced based on textual evidence alone, if that proposal is entirely impractical societally.

It would seem from what Gmirkin is proposing that as of 280 BCE Judeans were worshiping Asherah, Yahweh, Baal, El, and many, many others, having never heard of Moses, David, Solomon, etc. and then by of 250 or at least 200 BCE at least hundreds of thousands of Judeans worshiped only one God and tied their heritage to Moses, David, Solomon, etc. That seems very difficult to believe.
Hi again, RG--- I have been following up some other reading and it looks to me that we have to accept that the archaeological evidence is clear: prior to the Hellenistic period (or very late Persian period) there is no evidence that Judean communities, from Egypt, through Delos, Palestine and Babylonia, had knowledge of Mosaic laws, Abraham, or very little of anything that we associate with "biblical Judaism".

The Judeans did not know about "Israel" but called themselves Judeans/Jews. They worshiped Yhwh alongside other gods, and freely associated in business and marriage with neighbours with a preference for gods other than Yhwh. Passover was a festival but with no known association with an Exodus myth. The Sabbath was a special day -- for trading and markets, not for rest.

During the Persian era they did were not allowed independence in religious matters but required permission from the Persian authorities before they could build a temple -- and multiple temples were okay. Priests in Jerusalem did not object to the temple in Elephantine, for example.

The "god of heaven" was often used as an expression for Yhwh but it was a term that was also inclusive of Ahuramazda, Marduk, Aten-Re.
A striking, clearly recognisable change in the political structure did not take place until the restoration of Judean kingship in the 2nd century BC. It was not until the Hasmoneans that the Torah was explicitly and programmatically declared to be the basis of their rule and enforced with all its rigour. . . .

What happened before that . . . is beyond our knowledge. . . .

Possible reasons are the political-military situation and the economic conditions of foreign rule, internal conflicts between residents in the country and returnees from the Diaspora and, last but not least, the spiritual challenge that Hellenism posed for all involved.

--- translated from Kratz, Reinhard G. “Zwischen Elephantine Und Qumran: Das Alte Testament Im Rahmen Des Antiken Judentums.” In Congress Volume Ljubljana 2007, XVI, 640 Pp. ed. edition., 129–46. Leiden ; Boston: BRILL, 2009. -- pp 144-146
I'm reminded of Nehemiah -- written well after the Persian period its story is set in -- where a bit of physical persuasion was applied to force the population to start keeping the sabbath, and Ezra's efforts to break up interracial marriages.
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