Six Degrees of Occupation: How the Old Testament Came To Be

Six Degrees copy

by Liam Scheff

The Old Testament comes out of Hebrew history. Israel/Palestine (the end of the Mediterranean, connected to Egypt), was always a difficult area in which to establish a civilization. Rough terrain, stony hills, off the major trade routes, and a harsh climate: Mediterranean on the coast devolving into steppe and desert, suitable only for tribal herding people and their harsh mountain gods. How did this forsaken area birth the major religion of the Western World?

The answer: through invasion and occupation. Judea was ruled by so many people, it became inflected by the traditions and myths of other cultures. Eventually, this mixing vessel religion itself infected the Roman empire.

1. Earliest and most constant influences: Mesopotamian Gods, Goddesses and Myths: Gilgamesh and the life of Ancient Persian, Babylonian and Assyrian civilization in the Fertile Crescent about 500 miles to Babylon (Iraq).

2. 2000s BC: Egyptian management reaching into Palestine. Egypt brought its Sun/son gods, reincarnating gods, and circumcision.

3. 1700s – 1500s: Semitic (possibly Hebrew) peoples in Egypt form a ruling class (the Hyksos – rulers, not slaves) but are violently expelled back into Palestine (mythologized as “Exodus”). Following this period, small tribal “kingdoms” arise, mythologized as “The United Kingdom of David and Solomon,” but there’s nothing in the archaeology or history to show for the hopeful claims. Clan chiefs and warrior tribes are what survived in the difficult terrain.

4. 700s BC: External rule by nearby expanding Middle-Eastern states, then a long generation of indentured servitude in Babylon (500s), where the Hebrew scribes and priests gleaned a great deal from their captors, and wrote The Torah (The “Old Testament”) under the total influence of Babylon: Myths of a creation by Gods, a mystical garden, a loss of innocence and immortality, Noah, Moses and the Laws given by the Sun God – in the form of Flood myths, Gilgamesh, Utnapishtim’s ark, great King Sargon, and the Code of Hammurabi), a lunar calendar, and a powerful priesthood caste in a centralized, well-funded temple system.

5. 300s BC: Greek occupation and influence; the writings and philosophy of Aristotle, Plato, Socrates, Heraclitus and Homer. The Greek emphasis on a profound internal search for meaning, a belief in perfect math and transcendent universal geometries which loosened the “law” and gave them the “Word” or reason (Logos) and spirituality (Gnosis).

6. 70s BC: Then the Romans came, thoroughly kicked the Hebrew’s “Messianic” asses, and shoved them into permanent Stockholm Syndrome, inventing a supplicating reincarnating son/Sun god who would represent the loss of Judaism in the guise of a man/sympathetic deity.

That movement infected the lower classes, which caused the Empire to adopt it as an acceptable religion, by which to manage the masses – and then it infected the Imperial bureaucracy. That bureaucracy literalized the fables that had emerged, and created a strange tale of a boy born to a sex-free mother, who was “logos,” but also a man, a Jew, but a non-Jew, a Rabbi, but someone practicing a mystery religion that required baptism and anointing with oil (chrestos). We know that man as….

Donald Trump.

(No, kidding. You know the guy. Jesus Christmas.)

Crib Sheet:

1. Mesopotamian Myth (the shared heritage)
2. Egyptian Culture (Egypt manages Judea)
3. Egyptian Occupation (Jews possibly ruled Egypt as Hyksos peoples)
4. Multi-Middle Eastern Rule of Judea/Israel (culminating in half century in Babylon, where “Torah” – Old Testament was probably written)
5. Greeks Rule! (Greece takes over the area and influences Jewish thought, creating “Logos” and “Gnosis,” laying the ground for Gnosticism)
6. Roman Meal (The Empire grinds Judaism to dust, and out of the flour is baked a loaf of Christians)

Liam

2 Comments

  1. Liam,

    Fun write up — even if yours story is a mythologizing of mythologizing.

    You tell us that the Hebrews ruled in Egypt in the 1500 BCE but were then violently expelled. May I ask your evidence for that? I am not up on this stuff, but I thought there was no evidence of Hebrews being in Egypt.

    Thank you

    • Hi, I truly enjoy your website.

      This isn’t a mythologizing of myth; it’s a demystifying of it. I’m not sure why you can’t tell the difference… One is history, one is… ?? Harry Potter.

      I was writing near exhausted without enough sleep and too much theobromine, so only caught the date (1500) and unmodified “Hebrews” when you pointed it out. I’d meant to give it a broader context, so did so on edit. I adjusted the dates to fit with the Hyksos period in Egypt.

      The Hyksos are generally considered to be a Semitic people from the Levant and near east. Josephus called them Hebrews, but that may not be good enough. The Egyptians record chasing the unwelcome interlopers/rulers back into Palestine/Canaan, and destroying cities along the way to send a message.

      The Levant/Judea was hard to farm, and Egypt wasn’t; the Nile flooded yearly and food grew. The idea is that Semitic people settled the area, moving south from bad land to good. They became members of the society or culture, and rose to some positions of power, eventually gaining some mastery – and then more – becoming a ruling dynasty of Egypt (I think the 15th), forcing Egyptian rule to retreat down the Nile to Thebes.

      The Egyptians eventually pushed back and drove them out.

      You can look it up with those ideas and search terms and see what you get.

      Scott Bidstrup’s essay makes the argument: http://www.bidstrup.com/bible.htm but basic encyclopedia entries will tend to agree.

      I softened the language because while most people who research it will argue Semitic and Canaanite, “Hebrew” or “Israeli/Judean” have to be pulled from that context, though… I mean. Canaanite, Judean, Israeli… We’re talking deeply kissing cousins.

      Cheers,

      L

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