Origins of Jewish monotheism: Gmirkin vs Isaiah...

Discussion about the Hebrew Bible, Septuagint, pseudepigrapha, Philo, Josephus, Talmud, Dead Sea Scrolls, archaeology, etc.
ABuddhist
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Re: Origins of Jewish monotheism: Gmirkin vs Isaiah...

Post by ABuddhist »

neilgodfrey wrote: Sun Aug 28, 2022 12:42 am
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)?
But the thing is, Alexander did not leave it as an uninhabited ruin. He slew most of its people, but its king, his family, and other people were allowed to remain living there, and within a decades, Tyre was apparently a normal city again.

Consulting Book 2 of Arrian’s Anabasis of Alexander, reveals the following facts.

Chapters 16 and 18 reveal that the old Temple of Heracles was on the Island, not on the mainland.

Chapter 18 reveals that Tyre was located entirely upon an Island.

Chapter 25 reveals that Tyre was not completely destroyed, nor even stripped of all inhabitants. To the contrary, Alexander left unmolested in Tyre all Tyrians who sought refuge in its temple of Heracles, as well as its royal family.

If you were to assert that a royal family and refugees in a temple, when living as the only inhabitants within a city, are so few in number that they cause the city to cease to be a city but to become something else, such as a village or a town, then this attitude towards what constitutes a city is explicitly contradicted by the Bible, which presents single families as founding cities (rather than as founding villages that become cities): cf. Genesis 4:17, Judges 1:23-26.

Further confirming my claim that Alexander the Great did not totally destroy Tyre in any sense (either by completely stripping it of all Tyrian inhabitants or by destroying it totally), Jidejian, Nina (2018). TYRE Through The Ages (3rd ed.). Beirut: Librairie Orientale. pp. 119–141. ISBN 9789953171050 says that within fewer than 30 years of Alexander’s siege, Tyre was a powerful enough city to be besieged again.
Last edited by ABuddhist on Sun Aug 28, 2022 8:02 am, edited 1 time in total.
rgprice
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Re: Origins of Jewish monotheism: Gmirkin vs Isaiah...

Post by rgprice »

@neil

I see what you're saying, its just difficult to imagine.

Clearly, the Jewish scriptures paint the picture of a society that had believed in a single god, Yahweh, who was creator of the universe and mankind, who followed laws of Moses, who kept the Sabbath, who adhered to an extensive set of laws and holidays and rituals, etc., for over a thousand years.

Yet, according to Gmirkin's most comprehensive thesis, essentially all of this actually only materialized in the early third century BCE at best, including the exclusive worship of Yahweh. Indeed, much of this may not really have been adopted until the early second century BCE.

But what happened to the prior identity and beliefs of the Judeans? How could it really be that all of the prior beliefs and history of these people was so thoroughly forgotten, indeed not just forgotten, but erased? To the point that by the first century BCE there was essentially no trace of the real Judean society that had existed prior to the writing of the Torah? How and why were so many stories and prophecies written about Babylonian and Persian times?

Again, while I have long accepted many elements of Gmirkin's thesis, I thought that many of the books of the prophets were genuinely from Babylonian and Persian times, and that the exclusive worship of Yahweh preceded the writing of the Torah. To me, the shift of saying that essentially "everything" was produced after the beginning of the third century is quite astounding. It requires a much larger and more dramatic revolution in beliefs and culture than what I had imagined.

Having said that, if this is indeed the case, then it makes the rise of Gnosticism and Christianity even more understandable. Much of the focus of my book is on the origins of Judaism and how the shift from Israelite polytheism to a monotheism that was built on the amalgamation of El and Yahweh explains the development of Gnosticism and early Pauline worship of God the Father and his son the incarnation of Yahweh (who is much like the angel of Yahweh that comes to earth in human form). I get into the problem of evil and how different groups using the Jewish scriptures dealt with the attribution of evil either to God, to humans, to Belial, and other forces, etc., and how this relates to the transformation of polytheistic lore into monotheistic lore and the problems this caused within the resulting theology and how different groups dealt with it. I address the split between Jews and God-fearers who viewed God as the "lord of this world" and those who viewed Belial as the "lord of this world" and the theologies that supported these different views. I address how the underlying polytheistic beliefs considered El to be the supreme god of heaven, with Yahweh as a "lord of Israel" initially and then "lord of this world". The Gnostics persisted in considering Yahweh (of the God of the Jews) to be the "lord of this world" while Enochic type Jews, such as those living at Qurman considered Belial to be the "lord of this world".

Anyway, understanding that Judaism was actually a recent development, that it was created through an amalgamation of the identities of El and Yahweh, and that there was on-going dispute and confusion over the nature of this new God who was in fact actually two gods is what led to the rise of the Jesus story and Christianity.

So that's why I am trying to be very precise in my understanding of Jewish origins, because I see it has the absolute foundation of of our understanding of Christian origins. One cannot be understood without the other. However, my book goes even a layer deeper, because I don't think you can understand Jewish origins without understanding Greek and Roman religion and socio-political development, so I actually start with that. There are so many pieces that all come together to create the final picture, its a lot of material to cover. But its all essential.

Now this is forcing me to question major pillars in my book that I thought were finalized, so now I'm looking at potentially going back and doing more revisions again. And I'm not sure just how far down the road with Gmirkin I'm willing to go. But I'm thinking about it.
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Re: Origins of Jewish monotheism: Gmirkin vs Isaiah...

Post by StephenGoranson »

Judaism-start and Torah-start are not necessarily identical.
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neilgodfrey
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Re: Origins of Jewish monotheism: Gmirkin vs Isaiah...

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ABuddhist wrote: Sun Aug 28, 2022 4:34 am
Chapter 29 reveals that Tyre was not completely destroyed, nor even stripped of all inhabitants. To the contrary, Alexander left unmolested in Tyre all Tyrians who sought refuge in its temple of Heracles, as well as its royal family.
In my editions of Arrian it is chapter 25 of book 2. They say that Alexander spared the lives of those who sought refuge in the temple of Heracles, but given that these included visitors from Carthage, and given the destruction of everything else, one is left with the impression that they were allowed to return to Carthage or otherwise set free (neither crucified nor enslaved as most others were). The destruction makes it hard to imagine the place supporting an ongoing settlement there. Or maybe I'm missing something?
ABuddhist wrote: Sun Aug 28, 2022 4:34 amIf you were to assert that a royal family and refugees in a temple, when living as the only inhabitants within a city, are so few in number that they cause the city to cease to be a city but to become something else, such as a village or a town, then this attitude towards what constitutes a city is explicitly contradicted by the Bible, which presents single families as founding cities (rather than as founding villages that become cities): cf. Genesis 4:17, Judges 1:23-26.
My understanding is that those stories of single families starting cities are mythical tales, typical Greek foundation myths. The genre is copied in tales in Genesis and Judges. For cities to begin, they need a critical mass of persons who can support infrastructures and the necessities of communal supports. Otherwise, people would look for other places where they have those structures and supports and move to those places. (A single person cannot start a city -- as per the Gen and Jdg references you cite. That's a romantic notion.)
ABuddhist wrote: Sun Aug 28, 2022 4:34 amFurther confirming my claim that Alexander the Great did not totally destroy Tyre in any sense (either by completely stripping it of all Tyrian inhabitants or by destroying it totally), Jidejian, Nina (2018). TYRE Through The Ages (3rd ed.). Beirut: Librairie Orientale. pp. 119–141. ISBN 9789953171050 says that within fewer than 30 years of Alexander’s siege, Tyre was a powerful enough city to be besieged again.
What evidence does Nina Jidejian offer to support those statements? I am not saying they are wrong, but I have not heard those claims before.
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neilgodfrey
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Re: Origins of Jewish monotheism: Gmirkin vs Isaiah...

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rgprice wrote: Sun Aug 28, 2022 7:01 am @neil

I see what you're saying, its just difficult to imagine.
It is indeed difficult after all we have for so long been taught or influenced to accept. I suppose by now it is easier for me to imagine because I began breaking through the old models quite a few years ago, not too many years after Philip Davies' "ground-breaking" book (at least groundbreaking re popular awareness) came out in the last century and I have read lots of the archaeological analyses that supports the idea. There is no hard (material, archaeological) evidence for knowledge of the biblical narratives and theological perspectives until Hellenistic times -- or at a stretch very late Persian era.

You raise points that need further discussion and I'd like to take time to address them and match them with some of the scholarly works I have filed away that relate to them. But they will take a little time to dig out and I have other commitments that I must attend to, so hopefully I can return to the discussion in more depth in a few days. Or I may blog about some of it instead.
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neilgodfrey
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Re: Origins of Jewish monotheism: Gmirkin vs Isaiah...

Post by neilgodfrey »

StephenGoranson wrote: Sun Aug 28, 2022 7:18 am Judaism-start and Torah-start are not necessarily identical.
Agreed. One must always be clear about how one means a term to be understood in a particular context.
ABuddhist
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Re: Origins of Jewish monotheism: Gmirkin vs Isaiah...

Post by ABuddhist »

neilgodfrey wrote: Sun Aug 28, 2022 7:45 am
ABuddhist wrote: Sun Aug 28, 2022 4:34 am
Chapter 29 reveals that Tyre was not completely destroyed, nor even stripped of all inhabitants. To the contrary, Alexander left unmolested in Tyre all Tyrians who sought refuge in its temple of Heracles, as well as its royal family.
In my editions of Arrian it is chapter 25 of book 2. They say that Alexander spared the lives of those who sought refuge in the temple of Heracles, but given that these included visitors from Carthage, and given the destruction of everything else, one is left with the impression that they were allowed to return to Carthage or otherwise set free (neither crucified nor enslaved as most others were). The destruction makes it hard to imagine the place supporting an ongoing settlement there. Or maybe I'm missing something?
ABuddhist wrote: Sun Aug 28, 2022 4:34 amIf you were to assert that a royal family and refugees in a temple, when living as the only inhabitants within a city, are so few in number that they cause the city to cease to be a city but to become something else, such as a village or a town, then this attitude towards what constitutes a city is explicitly contradicted by the Bible, which presents single families as founding cities (rather than as founding villages that become cities): cf. Genesis 4:17, Judges 1:23-26.
My understanding is that those stories of single families starting cities are mythical tales, typical Greek foundation myths. The genre is copied in tales in Genesis and Judges. For cities to begin, they need a critical mass of persons who can support infrastructures and the necessities of communal supports. Otherwise, people would look for other places where they have those structures and supports and move to those places. (A single person cannot start a city -- as per the Gen and Jdg references you cite. That's a romantic notion.)
ABuddhist wrote: Sun Aug 28, 2022 4:34 amFurther confirming my claim that Alexander the Great did not totally destroy Tyre in any sense (either by completely stripping it of all Tyrian inhabitants or by destroying it totally), Jidejian, Nina (2018). TYRE Through The Ages (3rd ed.). Beirut: Librairie Orientale. pp. 119–141. ISBN 9789953171050 says that within fewer than 30 years of Alexander’s siege, Tyre was a powerful enough city to be besieged again.
What evidence does Nina Jidejian offer to support those statements? I am not saying they are wrong, but I have not heard those claims before.
I thank you for your feedback, which caught a typo in my citation; it was indeed Book 2, Chapter 25.

I apologize, furthermore, for not knowing as much about Tyre's history and is sources as would be best, but I have read that Antigonus I Monophthalmus besieged Tyre again in 315 BCE. This would seem to suggest that Ezekiel's prophecy, if truly dating to after Alexander's destruction of Tyre and in response to it, much have been written rather soon after Alexander's successes.
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Re: Origins of Jewish monotheism: Gmirkin vs Isaiah...

Post by ABuddhist »

StephenGoranson wrote: Sun Aug 28, 2022 7:18 am Judaism-start and Torah-start are not necessarily identical.
I thin k that everyone - even biblical literalists - would agree with that statement.
rgprice
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Re: Origins of Jewish monotheism: Gmirkin vs Isaiah...

Post by rgprice »

StephenGoranson wrote: Sun Aug 28, 2022 7:18 am Judaism-start and Torah-start are not necessarily identical.
Sort of, maybe. I had been under the impression that monotheistic "Judaism" would have preceded the writing of the Torah. But the point is that a lot of Gmrikin's work argues the opposite. HIs works makes the case essentially that the writings came first. His literary analysis is saying that at the time the Torah was written, Jews were not monotheistic. The writers of the Torah didn't even fully agree on whether there were two gods or one. The writers of Genesis were polytheistic, while the writers of Exodus+ supported only monotheism, identifying Yahweh as the one and only creator of the universe, which is not something that was generally accepted by Jews prior to them. He's arguing that it was the Torah that popularized this view among Jews.

So in that sense, Gmirkin is arguing that Judaism as we know it began with the writing of the Torah.
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neilgodfrey
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Re: Origins of Jewish monotheism: Gmirkin vs Isaiah...

Post by neilgodfrey »

rgprice wrote: Sun Aug 28, 2022 8:28 am
StephenGoranson wrote: Sun Aug 28, 2022 7:18 am Judaism-start and Torah-start are not necessarily identical.
Sort of, maybe. I had been under the impression that monotheistic "Judaism" would have preceded the writing of the Torah. But the point is that a lot of Gmrikin's work argues the opposite. HIs works makes the case essentially that the writings came first. His literary analysis is saying that at the time the Torah was written, Jews were not monotheistic. The writers of the Torah didn't even fully agree on whether there were two gods or one. The writers of Genesis were polytheistic, while the writers of Exodus+ supported only monotheism, identifying Yahweh as the one and only creator of the universe, which is not something that was generally accepted by Jews prior to them. He's arguing that it was the Torah that popularized this view among Jews.

So in that sense, Gmirkin is arguing that Judaism as we know it began with the writing of the Torah.
Yes, and you rightly speak of "monotheistic 'Judaism'" and "Judaism as we know it" -- acknowledging that other concepts of Judaism are possible.

I quoted earlier from Reinard Kratz. He defines the type of Judaism he is talking about as "biblical Judaism" -- to distinguish it from what looks like pre-biblical Judaism (one that acknowledged Yhwh along with other gods, for example):
Wellhausen and all those who followed him assume that Judaism had its all-connecting centre in the 'Law', i.e. in the Torah of Moses. Now ancient Judaism, as Wellhausen of course also knew, is by no means a unity. Even in the Old Testament itself and in the Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha, including the writings of Qumran, there are very different voices, including those that presuppose the confession of the one and only God Yhwh, but do not explicitly refer to the Torah of Moses. The various religious parties (Sadducees, Pharisees, Essenes, etc.) of which we know from the New Testament, Josephus and other sources, were not the least external expression of diverse doctrinal opinions and interests. But all the voices and groups have in fact one thing in common: although they do not always refer explicitly to the Torah of Moses, they all move in one way or another within the framework of the biblical tradition, i.e. that Jewish tradition which refers to the biblical writings, transmits them and produces new writings or doctrines based on them. I would therefore like to group them all under the term biblical Judaism.

- translation from page 131 of Kratz, Reinhard G. “Zwischen Elephantine Und Qumran: Das Alte Testament Im Rahmen Des Antiken Judentums.” In Congress Volume Ljubljana 2007, edited by Andre Lemaire, XVI, 640 Pp. ed. edition., 129–46. Leiden ; Boston: BRILL, 2009.
Distinct from this "biblical Judaism" is what Kratz calls "non-biblical Judaism" -- the kind we see at Elephantine. He also calls this sort of Judaism (of Elephantine and Al-Jahudu) as "unreformed Judaism". Another differentiating term is "post-exilic Judaism" -- though this one runs into the difficulty that not all scholars see much to distinguish the Judaism of the Persian era from the pre-captivity era.

Another common descriptor is "early Judaism" -- though that can cover a multitude of types.

Gmirkin speaks of "Hellenistic Judaism" to refer to, oddly enough, Judaism of the Hellenistic era. He sums up what he means by Hellenistic Judaism:
Evidence is lacking for a continued later study of Plato by the Jewish ruling class in a university-like setting after the creation of the Pentateuch, a signal failure of the Platonic agenda that had sought to create a state which guaranteed the pursuit of philosophy at the highest level into perpetuity. Instead of philosophers ruling a divine state through a carefully crafted and monitored religion and national traditions, religion itself became the driving force of Judean national life in the Hellenistic Era7 as Judaism became a belief system perpetuated through its literature alone, untethered from philosophy. Empowered with its own autonomous beliefs and written traditions, the Jewish and Samaritan religions thus came into implicit conflict with the philosophical system that had given them birth. Rather than the first nation under philosophical rule, Judea became known as the first nation under priestly religious rule, and Judaism as the first belief system. With its divine laws and approved national literature, Judaism remarkably survived the downfall of its temple and ancient nation, effecting the eternal perpetuation of its religious traditions and beliefs down to present times, much as Plato had predicted (Gmirkin 2017: 270-4). Yet the philosophy that gave birth to the novel Jewish theocratic state was, ironically, extinguished at the outset.

pages 293f of Gmirkin, Russell E. Plato’s Timaeus and the Biblical Creation Accounts: Cosmic Monotheism and Terrestrial Polytheism in the Primordial History. Abingdon, Oxon New York, NY: Routledge, 2022.
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