J. W. Wesselius: “The Origin of the History of Israel” (2002)—Review

This book by the Dutch scholar Jan Wim Wesselius presents yet another radical solution to the question hulking over OT studies like a malignant phantom: Who wrote the ancient history of Israel? Much depends on the answer—including the self-proclaimed legitimacy of the modern state of Israel. We recently considered Russell Gmirkin’s answer, which I personally find quite plausible: a group of Jewish scholars penned the Torah in Alexandria, c. 273 BCE, drawing on sources found in the Alexandria Library (particularly Berossus and Manetho). Wesselius presents a very different, but equally provocative, solution to the authorship question as regards the so-called Primary History (Genesis through 2 Kings). His book’s full title is The Origin of the History of Israel: Herodotus’s Histories … Continue reading

R. Gmirkin: Berossus and Genesis (2006)—Review

Though there are a few reviews of Gmirkin’s book it deserves a revisit today, over a decade after publication. Priced at $180, it’s unlikely that many of you have read this important tome. I did so only because the nearby University of Oregon Library possesses a copy. This is not a thoroughgoing review of Berossus and Genesis, Manetho and Exodus: Hellenistic Histories and the Date of the Pentateuch (New York: t & t Clark 2006), but rather a series of excerpts (see below) presenting its essential thesis and argument. For more details, see Neil Godfrey’s 2012 analyses (here, here, and here), and also Laura Knight Jadczyk’s fine customer review on Amazon.com. At 332, pages, the book contains eleven chapters and … Continue reading

Mythicism on the cusp of history–Pt. 2

Scholars mentioned: R. Gmirkin, N. Lemche, J. Milik, J. Wesselius.      Astonishing theories have been recently postulated regarding the origins of Jewish scripture. They may seem quite far-fetched (see below), and the long-standing Documentary Hypothesis (DH) firmly remains majority opinion. But it may need tweaking, if not an overhaul. We recall that the DH (current since the late 19th century and also known as the Graf-Wellhausen theory) posits four major strands of literature in the Pentateuch: Yahwist, Elohist, Deuteronomist, and Priestly.      The DH offers explanations for differences in vocabulary, style, and point of view/content between various passages in the OT. It also goes a long way toward explaining outright contradictions, such as the two incompatible versions of the creation in Genesis … Continue reading

Mythicism on the cusp of history–Pt. 1

Scholars mentioned: T. Brodie, H. Detering, E. Doherty, N. Lemche, D. MacDonald, R. Price, R. Salm, T. Thompson.      Readers of this blog recognize its dedication to mythicism—as in ‘Jesus mythicism’—the conviction that Jesus of Nazareth did not exist as an historical figure. However, at this time in history when pressure is rapidly building in support of the Christian mythicist position, a different (yet equally important) kind of mythicism is also gaining ground… We can term it Jewish mythicism—the conviction that assumptions about Judaism’s past are (also) mythological.      Only the most naive today maintain the historicity of the patriarchs from Abraham to Moses. Major biblical figures and entities associated with “Ancient Israel” (i.e., the Iron Age, c. 1200–c. 600 BCE) are … Continue reading

Pre-Christian gnosticism

In the last few years the fundamental historicity of the canonical gospels has been increasingly brought into question not merely through the work of a few “mythicists” but now also through the work of mainline scholars such as Thomas Brodie and Dennis MacDonald. The work of other scholars, too—scholars who are not ‘mythicist’ at all—is inexorably leading the entire field towards a new paradigm: “Jesus of Nazareth” was a fiction. This new paradigm is still far from being even a minority consensus among scholars, but that may largely be due to the reticence of many scholars to espouse what is extremely unpopular and still politically suicidal. In other words, the mythicist position is far stronger than may appear when the … Continue reading

Thomas Brodie, mythicist priest:
Beyond the Quest for the Historical Jesus—Pt. 3

(Published Easter Sunday) On this Easter Sunday, ‘year of our Lord’ 2013, we may note that Father Thomas Brodie’s Beyond the Quest for the Historical Jesus offers the world a closely reasoned analysis showing that “Jesus of Nazareth” is a fiction, a literary construct cunningly based on Jewish scripture. Brodie has done nothing less than deconstruct normative Christianity based on literary source criticism. Of course, Thomas Brodie is no Johnny come lately, no dillettante, no wild-eyed hater of Christianity… He is both a Dominican priest and a distinguished bible scholar with an extensive resumé of published work going back many decades. Throughout his academic career, Brodie’s specialization has been literary source criticism. In this domain, he is the expert. Brodie … Continue reading