Questions Some Biblical Tales
By Jeannine Lee Lake
(Reprinted by permission (C)200, The Star Press, Muncie, Ind.)
Remember sitting in Sunday School and
being rapt while you listened to the story of David and Goliath?
What about the tale of a recently shorn
Samson pulling down the huge Philistine temple and the miraculous account of
the creation of the World?
Well, according to a new book by noted
author Gary Greenberg, those events didn't exactly happen and in fact were
likely plagiarized from Greek and Egyptian mythology. The book,101 Myths of
the Bible, challenges historical accounts of events from the Bible, noting
the inaccuracy of stories such as the Ten Commandments and Sodom and
In the book, Greenberg examines many
stories in the Old Testament and attempts to show how they might have
originated through Egyptian and Greek mythology. He studied material by
placing them into three specific categories: stories with at least two
contradictory accounts in the Bible; Biblical stories that closely
paralleled earlier myths and legends from neighboring cultures, and stories
that couldn't possibly be true.
One of the myths that Greenberg dissects
is the story of God creating Adam by using dust from the Earth. Gen. 2:7
states that ". . . the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and
breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living
Greenberg asserts in his book, however,
that "the biblical editors confused the birth of Atum [the Heliopolitan
Creator deity] in Egyptian mythology with the birth of the first human . . .
Genesis says that God created the first man from the dust of the earth and
breathed life into him through his nostrils. Mesopotamian myths make some
similar claims, but they differ from Genesis in two significant details."
By recounting these so-called "myths,"
Greenberg writes that he is not attempting to discuss the power or ability
of God. He is simply wanting to use scholarly information to examine certain
Biblical accounts that are questionable. Greenberg said he avoided tackling
miracles directly attributed to God but saw many contradictions that he
chose to examine.
"I made a conscious decision to avoid
stories of a miraculous nature where the sole argument to be raised would be
a violation of the laws of physics," he said. "While I would be technically
correct, for example, in dismissing the story of the seven days of Creation
as a simple violation of scientific principals, there would be no purpose to
include such stories.
"For people who believe in the ability
of God to perform miracles that override the natural order, such arguments
would be of no avail," he added. ". . . In the course of this book, I will
make a number of arguments with which most biblical scholars agree. In
several other instances, however, I offer insights into puzzling matters
that the academic community has yet to resolve adequately."
Robert Tharp, associate pastor of South
Side Church of the Nazarene, said he feels no need to ask so-called academic
biblical scholars to help him decipher the scriptures. He said that
Greenberg's ideals are "one of the many different schools of thought" that
are based on scientific research.
He said books like101 Myths strike at
the heart of Christians who take the Bible as a literal, inspired word from
"I think there are different criticisms,
but the way that I approach the scripture is by faith," he said. "I believe
that God is behind everything, and that is where I start - not by looking at
archeology or mythology.
"We've had evolution versus creation for
a long time, and evolutionists use science and Christians use faith," he
said. "I believe that God is using the Bible to speak for Him and to let us
know that he is there to help. I think he did part the Red Sea, and he
delivered the Jews out of the hands of the Egyptians because he wanted us to
know that he is able to help us, too."
The book, available at many local
bookstores and through amazon.com, is published by Sourcebooks Inc. in
Naperville, Ill. Greenberg, who also authored The Moses Mystery: The African
Origins of the Jewish People, knew his book would be controversial. He said
that his book provides a scholarly overview of the Old Testament but does
not seek to explain the power of God, which he believes in.
"Because so many people believe the
authors of the various Bible books were divinely inspired, and since this
book explores the sources for many Bible stories, I prefer to think of this
collection as a restoration of God's footnotes for the Bible, putting back
in the source citations that the authors left out."
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