Strangers in a Strange Land

The Bible Myth: The African Origins of the Jewish People, by Gary Greenberg – This was the same author who wrote 101 Myths of the Bible, which I reviewed here. Like that book, this one is based around the idea that the Jews and the stories that later made up the Bible originated in Egypt. According to Greenberg’s thesis, Moses was a priest under Akhenaten, father of the boy king Tutankhamen, and apparently a quite controversial individual. He made an attempt at making the national religion strictly monotheistic, with the only god being one who was sort of a combination of Ra and Horus. This didn’t go over too well, and his successors attempted to purge all references to this change. Some followers of Akhenaten’s monotheism, with Moses as their leader, ended up negotiating for safe passage into Canaan, where they settled. Also, Greenberg draws parallels between the Genesis mythology and that of Egypt, noting some strong similarities and others that stretched plausibility a bit. The lifespans of the patriarchs would have actually corresponded to the beginnings and ends of the different Egyptian ruling dynasties. It’s definitely an interesting idea, and would account for why Genesis includes so many exact numbers that don’t appear to be based in anything real, but it shows a few signs of being made to fit. For instance, Greenberg made clear that he was using the figures from the Masoretic text, but for some reason he made an exception for Lamech. Granted, Lamech’s lifespan in the Masoretic text is given as 777 years, which sounds even more made up than the rest of them (well, except maybe Enoch with his 365 years), but my normal skepticism with number games still comes into play. Once you start manipulating numbers, you can make them correspond to anything. For the most part, however, Greenberg seems to have done pretty well at supporting his ideas, and they have an air of realism that the often propagandist Biblical account lacks.

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4 Responses to Strangers in a Strange Land

  1. vilajunkie says:

    Wait, I thought Moses was living during the time of the Ramses dynasty (yes, there was more than one Ramses). Or is that just something from “The Ten Commandments” and not in real biblical writings? Of course, I also question the queen of Egypt wearing gold lame, but I don’t know whether or not Egyptian royalty had fabric made with precious metals like some later countries did.

    • Nathan says:

      It’s a popular supposition that Ramses II was the Pharaoh of the Exodus, but it’s never been officially confirmed. I forget why Greenberg dismissed this idea, but I know he had a reason.

  2. I’m going to have to read this! Sounds fascinating!

  3. Pingback: Legends of the Levant | VoVatia

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