Combat Myth: The Curious Story of Yahweh and the Gods Who Preceded Him

The Combat Myth is a supernatural battle between order and chaos (or good and evil) that we see in mythologies of civilizations throughout the Ancient Near East, culminating with Judaism. Yahweh isn’t a remarkable god, different from the made-up gods in surrounding cultures. Instead, his story is just one stage in a long line of mythology. If the Akkadian god Anzu or the Babylonian god Marduk are obvious myths, Yahweh is the same.

While the Mesopotamian myths are unfamiliar to most of us, we see a hint in Greek mythology. Zeus wasn’t always the chief god of the Greek pantheon but took that role from his father Cronos. And Cronos succeeded his own father, Uranus. Though there are important differences, this succession is common to the Combat Myth.

1. Akkadian myth: Ninurta defeats Anzu

The Akkadian Empire followed Sumer as the main Mesopotamian civilization. This myth is about a thousand years before the Yahweh story in the Old Testament.

In the Akkadian pantheon, Enlil was the king of the gods. Kingship was invested in the god who possessed the Tablet of Destinies, which showed all that has happened and all that will happen.

The griffin-like Anzu, assistant to Enlil, steals the Tablet and flies away. Chaos threatens the order of the gods. Kingship will go to the god who restores order, but none steps up to respond to the challenge. Finally, Ninurta, an unimportant god to that point, volunteers.

Besides being able to fly, Anzu has two useful powers. One is that he can make all his feathers fly out and then come back, which distracts his opponents. The other is that he can disassemble things (such as arrows shot at him) into their component parts. And, of course, he has the Tablet, which is handy for seeing what an opponent is about to do.

The first battle is a stalemate. Anzu is able to disassemble Ninurta’s arrows. But Ninurta enters the second battle with a new stratagem. He shoots an arrow disguised as a feather at just the right moment so that it’s lost in Anzu’s cloud of feathers. Anzu pulls the feathers back in and is killed by the arrow. Order is restored, and Ninurta ascends to become the king of the gods.

The Combat Myth

From this, let’s distill out the Combat Myth. It begins with a chaotic threat to the council of the gods. None of the gods from the older generation is willing to face the challenge, but one young god steps up. He defeats the monster and becomes the new chief god. This structure is constant, though the details are customized in subsequent civilizations.

Two features are not common to all examples. In some, we see the hero god dying and being reborn in the process. Also, our human world is sometimes created from the carcass of the slain chaos monster.

2. Babylonian myth: Marduk defeats Tiamat

This story comes from the Enuma Elis, the Babylonian creation epic. In the beginning were Tiamat, the female serpent or dragon who was salt water, and Absu, the male god who was the fresh water.

(I’ve written more about how the Genesis story parallels the Mesopotamian myth of a saltwater dome above the primordial earth and a fresh water ocean underneath.)

Tiamat and Absu create a generation of younger gods who become too noisy for Absu’s liking. He plans to kill them all, but they learn of his plan and kill him first. Tiamat is furious.

Marduk the storm god steps up to respond. He kills Tiamat, forms the universe from her body, and installs himself as king of the gods.

3. Ugaritic myth: Baal defeats Yam and then Mot

This myth comes from Ugarit, just north of Israel. It’s dated to roughly 1300 BCE. This is the environment from which Judaism emerged.

Our historical record is fragmentary, but El is the chief god, and Baal (“Lord”) volunteers to fight the chaos threat. (Yes, the same El and Baal mentioned in the Old Testament.) He uses a supernatural club to kill Yam (“Sea”), the serpent-like sea god. Some variations give Yam seven heads and use Lotan and Leviathan as synonyms.

Next, Baal fights Mot (“Death”), another threat to order. Baal dies in this battle but is brought back to life to finally overcome Mot.

4. Israelite myth: Yahweh defeats Leviathan

Early Judaism had the same council of the gods as in Ugaritic mythology. (I’ve written more on Israelite polytheism here.) Yahweh is a son of El (also called Elyon) and was just one of many in the council of the gods.

When Elyon divided the nations, when he separated the sons of Adam, he established the borders of the nations according to the number of the sons of the gods. Yahweh’s portion was his people, [Israel] his allotted inheritance. (Deut. 32:8–9)

Yahweh was assigned Israel, and other gods in the council were given their own tribes to rule.

We see the Bible’s version of the Combat Myth in Ps. 89:5–12. First, Yahweh has taken his place as king of the council of the gods.

The heavens praise your wonders, Yahweh, your faithfulness too, in the assembly of the holy ones. For who in the skies above can compare with Yahweh? Who is like Yahweh among the heavenly beings? In the council of the holy ones God is greatly feared; he is more awesome than all who surround him.

Yahweh has slain the chaos monster Rahab (yet another name for the sea monster).

You rule over the surging sea; when its waves mount up, you still them. You crushed Rahab like one of the slain; with your strong arm you scattered your enemies.

Finally, Yahweh created the earth.

The heavens are yours, and yours also the earth; you founded the world and all that is in it.

We read a similar retelling in Psalms 74, where Yahweh is credited with creation. But first, he defeated the monster(s):

It was you who split open the sea [Yam] by your power; you broke the heads of the monster in the waters. It was you who crushed the heads of Leviathan and gave it as food to the creatures of the desert. (Ps. 74:13–14)

We see this multi-headed dragon both looking back as Lotan in Ugaritic mythology and looking forward as the sea dragon in Revelation 13.

With Yahweh as just one more step in the evolution of the Combat Myth, little besides wishful thinking supports the idea that he alone is for real.

And that’s the point about beliefs—they don’t change facts.
Facts, if you’re rational, should change beliefs.
— Ricky Gervais (The Unbelievers movie trailer)

My primary source for this post was a podcast episode by Dr. Phil Harland (York University, Toronto) “Podcast 7.2: Origins part 1 – Ancient Near Eastern Combat Myths.” I recommend his “Religions of the Ancient Mediterranean” podcast.

Photo credit: Wikipedia

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About Bob Seidensticker
  • Jason

    I’m teaching Bible right now at a university and have been discussing this topic with my students. We just looked closely at the evidence in Job for early Israelite polytheism and I think many were surprised. In the book of Job, Satan is not the devil or Lucifer or the Serpent. In fact, “Satan” is not even a personal name; it just means “Accuser” and he is described as one of the sons of god in the heavenly council. Thus it’s at least clear that Job’s god was the head of an array of various divine beings he was related to (not so different from Zeus and the Olympians). Many many OT passages make much more sense when read in this light (e.g. in Gen 1.26, God says, “let us make humankind in our image…”)

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      Yes, Satan as God’s Mr. Fix-it is an odd concept for many people.

      I was having a similar conversation with some Christian friends who weren’t aware of the Documentary Hypothesis (the JEPD thing). Simply as a way to make sense of the Bible, this kind of unfettered thinking is essential.

      Of course, they have an agenda and can’t do that. Weird.

      If your research shows areas where I’ve made a mistake or need to go further, please point that out.

    • Steve Willy

      You have no right to be teaching at a university you neck bearded megadouche.

      • Pattrsn

        Neck bearded? I smell a Poe.

        • Felix Galvan

          I smell a troll, are Poe’s similar?

        • Pattrsn

          Well I’ve poe’d trolls before. I guess by poeing them I was engaging in trollery. And just now I trolled a troll by calling it a poe.

        • Steve Willy

          If this person is actually a university professor and they truly honor the gods of reason and logic half as much as they claim — indeed, if they believe in anything beyond their own solipsistic hedonism — then they would recognize a moral obligation to place their face into their palm, IMMEDIATELY resign from their position, find a quiet place, and rethink their life. His or her comments here demonstrate beyond a shadow of a doubt that they cannot possibly be doing a service to their students nor can they possibly be doing legitimate scholarship. They are nothing but a sophomoric, Hitchens-Dawkins parroting basement dwelling megadouche who happens to wrap his or her pseudo-intellectual musing in some sort of a degree, and are using that degree to force their neck bearded ‘values’ on people who are not in a position to disagree.

        • Pattrsn

          Resign? I don’t think that goes nearly far enough. The man has offended your religious beliefs. He has opened tiny crack in your wall of self delusion, firings too good for the prick, he needs to be put up against a wall. I’d shoot him myself but as a Canadian I’m afraid that’s illegal.

          I like your analogy of the other gods as being rays of light shining through the true god, but I think there may be some problems with it as some of those rays were doing things like screwing their sisters and murdering each other. I think a more appropriate analogy might be say raisins on a bran muffin. People at first can’t see the muffin because it’s so covered in raisins (it being god it would be so rich and tasty and simply covered in raisins, it would be the most perfect bran muffin) until god reveals himself “Here I am” and they see him for the muffin he is. Or perhaps a banana covered in chocolate chips, I had one of those the other day, I said to myself “god this is a good”, coincidence? Or maybe a donut with sprinkles, the hole kind of adds an element of mystery. Anyway feel free to run with it.

        • Jason

          My local grocery store has this pistachio muffin that’s awesome.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Golly, Steve. What religion do you subscribe to? ‘Cause it sounds awesome. And your arguments are real deep. I wanna be just like you.

        • Jason

          Instead of trying to insult me, why don’t you explain how my comments are wrong? All I did was point out the evidence we find in Job. Nothing speculative going on here. It’s just what the text says.

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

        Huh? Is this your way of saying, “Stop attacking my religion”?

    • JohnH2

      The LDS view of God and the Godhead explicitly has what you are talking about.

      • Jason

        Actually, that’s very interesting and I didn’t know that. Are you saying the LDS view is that the serpent in Genesis, the Accuser in Job, and Lucifer are three different entities?

        • JohnH2

          No, (I assume) they are all the same being who is a son of God, as are we all, created in the image and likeness of God. In the council in heaven Lucifer rebelled against God and was cast out of heaven. Elohim is a titular name for God the Father being the head of the council in heaven or council of the Gods.

          Satan or the accuser is likewise a titular name for Lucifer, the son of the morning that fell.

          I think it is very important when reading what I wrote to throw out completely the christian orthodox understanding of God, Satan, angels, and those are just the most obvious ones for me to point out.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          The LDS view is more in sync with the polytheism found in the Old Testament than the traditional Christian view is.

        • JohnH2

          Most Isrealites in the Old Testament were polytheist but Mormons and the Israelite prophets follow Monolatry. (many gods but worship only one God).

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          It’s just that most modern Christians attempt to find some way to spin the OT to pretend that they always knew there was only one god.

          Did Mormonism develop to deliberately be more in sync with the OT on this matter, or was that just a happy accident?

        • JohnH2

          Obviously the first vision of Joseph Smith already implies quite a bit and blows away the creeds of Christendom both by there being two personages; one declaring the other to be His Beloved Son and by the other declaring the creeds to be an abomination.

          Then there is the book of Abraham, whatever what was being translated as its source, it is very explicit about all this and contains details found in Gnostic texts that which texts were only discovered recently, not had in Joseph Smiths day.

          So the doctrine was already there prior to it being made completely explicit in the King Follett Discourse and the sermon in the grove; both of which do tie it into the New and Old Testament. I believe Mormonism to be true so I believe that God set it up to be more in sync with the truth; which the Old Testament does contain portions of the truth as well.

          If it were not true then I would have to say it was a happy accident: if one rejects the three-in-one answer of the creeds then already one is left with really only two options: either one takes the route of the Jehovah’s Witnesses and Islam in claiming that Jesus is not Jehovah and not God; or one has to reject the entire proposition of marrying the Bible and belief with the philosophy coming from Athens (What has Athens to do with Jerusalem?). Mormonism is based on that complete rejection of the creeds and the philosophy the creeds were founded on so there is only one logical direction to go and it so happens that it is also the older direction from which Christianity and Judaism has departed from.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Obviously the first vision of Joseph Smith already implies quite a bit and blows away the creeds of Christendom both by there being two personages; one declaring the other to be His Beloved Son and by the other declaring the creeds to be an abomination.

          Wait … what book are we talking about here that has these contradictions?

          Then there is the book of Abraham

          The one that was later rediscovered and translated by actual experts and found to be nothing much after all?

          if one rejects the three-in-one answer of the creeds

          I see very little to support the idea of the Trinity in the New Testament. If you went back in time to get Paul’s take (or Jesus’s), it seems pretty clear that they’d stare at you blankly.

          either one takes the route of the Jehovah’s Witnesses and Islam in claiming that Jesus is not Jehovah and not God; or one has to reject the entire proposition of marrying the Bible and belief with the philosophy coming from Athens

          Well, another option leaps to mind. You could conclude that the Bible looks most like yet another book of ancient mythology.

        • JohnH2

          Wait … what book are we talking about here that has these contradictions?

          The first vision? Joseph Smith History in the Pearl of Great Price; you can check the Joseph Smith paper’s site for all other accounts.

          The one that was later rediscovered and translated by actual experts and found to be nothing much after all?

          Which is why I worded it as I did; while not everything was rediscovered the facsimiles were for sure. I don’t know what or how Joseph Smith was translating to get the book of Abraham but it isn’t a direct translation of what has been found of the papyrus but also has things which weren’t knowable to Joseph Smith from other gnostic texts. I believe he really was getting revelation on a real ancient document the alternative, I guess, is that he managed to come up with all the similarities to documents that he didn’t have on his own, which seems just as improbable to me.

          another option leaps to mind.

          I should have prefaced with the assumption that one believes in the Bible, I suppose.

        • Jason

          “Satan or the accuser is likewise a titular name for Lucifer, the son of the morning that fell.”

          But the original texts of the Hebrew Bible do not say this. You have to distinguish between the original context of a text and how it is interpreted later. Yes, later Christian interpretation connects all three of these characters. But there’s no evidence that the authors of Genesis, Job, and Isaiah identified these three entities as the same being. Most people are so familiar with the later interpretations they have heard all their lives that they don’t even notice what the original texts say. In Genesis, the serpent is never described as anything other than a misbehaving talking snake (think Aesop’s fables!) who is forced to slither on the ground without legs for tempting Eve. In Job, the Accuser is a son of god who roams around on the earth, with no connection to Hell, the devil, Lucifer, or any kind of embodiment of evil. In Isaiah, “Lucifer” is also not a proper name, just a reference to the planet Venus (the morning star), an image that invokes Canaanite mythology to insult the king of Babylon. Again, this is not an interpretation, just what the texts themselves say.

        • JohnH2

          For your comment on Genesis; that is what is in Genesis, but not what is in the rest of my scriptures.

          For your comment on Job; you clearly didn’t throw out your understanding of Christianity when trying to understand what I said, your mention of Hell and embodiment of evil proves that. The Accuser is a son of god that roams around on the earth.

          I agree that Isaiah is referring to Venus, and that Isaiah is talking about the king of Babylon. Isaiah though is great at putting in allusions and double meanings of things in his book; which is what he did here.

  • Greg G.

    In Egyptian mythology, there is the Ogdoad, four pairs of deities representing deep waters (Nu and Naunet), air and invisible forces (Amun and Amunet), eternity and chaos (Huh and Hauhet), and darkness and the unknown (Kuk and Kauket). The males were frog men while the females (those whose names end with “et”) were snake women. They gave rise to Ra, the sun. Then they rested.

    Genesis 1:2 Now the earth was formless and empty (Huh and Hauhet), darkness (Kuk and Kauket) was over the surface of the deep (Nu and Naunet), and the Spirit (the literal translation is wind) of God (Amun and Amunet) was hovering over the waters.

    Nu was depicted in Egyptian art as holding a boat over his head. The boat contained seven people and some animals (usually just a scarab). “Noah” is pretty much a transliteration of “Nu”.

    Ahkenaten and his priests favored monotheism. They figured that all the other gods were just manifestations of the one god, Atum-Ra. The stories of other gods remained but were stripped down to being elemental forces or they became humans in the stories.

    The stories of Jacob and Esau match up with Osiris and Set, until God knocks Jacob’s hip out of joint to make him limp like Horus.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      I’d only vaguely heard of this story. Thanks for adding to our collection of mythology.

  • Steve Willy

    Since the Judeo-Christian tradition teaches that God was God long before anyone formulated a theology, one would expect certain commonalities to emerge that presaged Abrahamic monotheism. These other ‘gods’ were rays of light, if you will, shining through from the one true God. Stories like this actually reinforce monotheism – God was there all along, it just took man a while to develop that understanding. The fact that you could take such stories and “neck beard” them up into somehow weighing against Gods existence perfectly illustrates Hitchens-Dawkins parroting basement dwelling megadouchery. Yours is a petty, trivial, localized, earth bound philosophy, unworthy of the universe.

    • Greg G.

      Hey Steve! You’re parroting Ahkenaten and his priests when they adapted Egyptian polytheism to monotheism. Their idea was that there was only one god and the others were just different manifestations of the one.

      Your last sentence applies to yourself better.

      • Steve Willy

        Wow, this comment really opened my eyes. I mean, this is mind blowing stuff. You make some powerful points, except … let’s put the Hitchens-Dawkins Kool-Aid down for a while and look at reality: Kalaam Cosmological Argument, the Argument from Reason, Fine Tuning of Universal Constants, irreducible biological complexity, the argument from morality…. Your entire world view lies shattered at your feet. If you truly honor the gods of reason and critical thinking half as much as you claim, you would plant your face firmly into your hand, step away from the device, find a quiet place, and rethink your life. Indeed, why are you even bothering to comment at all? No atheistic position can be taken seriously until two threshold questions can coherently be answered. 1. Why is the atheist even engaging in the debate. On atheism, there is no objective basis for even ascertaining truth; there is no immaterial aspect to consciousness and all mental states are material. Therefore, everyone who ever lived and ever will live could be wrong about a thing. By what standard would that ever be ascertained on atheism? Also if atheism is true, there is no objective meaning to existence and no objective standard by which the ‘rational’ world view of atheism is more desirable, morally or otherwise, to the ‘irrational’ beliefs of religion. Ridding the world of the scourge of religion, so that humanity can ‘progress’ or outgrow it, is not a legitimate response to this because on atheism, there is no reason to expect humanity to progress or grow. We are a historical accident that should fully expect to be destroyed by the next asteriod, pandemic, or fascist atheist with a nuke. In short, if atheism is correct, there is no benefit, either on an individual or societal level, to knowing this or to spreading such ‘knowledge.’ 2. Related to this, why is the atheist debater even alive to participate. If there is no heaven, no hell, no afterlife at all, only an incredibly window of blind pitiless indifference, then the agony of struggling to exist, seeing loved ones die, and then dying yourself can never be outweighed by any benefit to existing. As rude as it way sound (and I AM NOT advocating suicide) the atheist should have a coherent explanation for why they chose to continue existing. Failure to adequately address these threshold questions should result in summary rejection of the neckbeard’s position.

        In the end, we all know you can’t answer these questions because yours is a petty, trivial, localized, earth bound philosophy, unworthy of the universe.

        Finally, is there a basement dwelling troll left in the multiverse who doesn’t drag themselves out of the primordial ooze and logged onto this site in order to announce our collective atheism towards Thor, that gardens can be beautiful without fairies (a powerful rebuttal to fairy apologetics, by the way, but it leaves a lot unanswered about the Gardener), and that we cling to Bronze Age skymen due to our fear of the dark? Let me translate that to neckbeard: you are unoriginal, you are wrong, and you are an ass.

        • Greg G.

          Nice strategy. You post a bunch of PRATTs, then run away by intentionally getting yourself banned so you don’t have to defend your silly statements.

          The Kalaam makes no sense at all. If something that begins to exist is caused in an existing universe, it couldn’t be extrapolated to the universe. What begins to exist and is caused anyway? Causes act on things that already exist by changing forms. A cause acting on nothing has no effect. Things that begin to exist, like virtual particles, are not caused unless you give up the arrow of time and then you don’t need a god that didn’t begin to exist.

          We have evidence without certainty. Theists have certainty without evidence. That leads to Dark Ages.

          You have it backwards. When you know there is no eternal life, each day of life has greater meaning. If you think you will live forever, what meaning does a minute, a day, a year or a century mean? Every second of life is precious when they are limited.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Kalaam Cosmological Argument, the Argument from Reason, Fine Tuning of Universal Constants, irreducible biological complexity, the argument from morality…. Your entire world view lies shattered at your feet.

          You simply utter the magical incantations, and presto! Is that how it works?

          Ridding the world of the scourge of religion, so that humanity can ‘progress’ or outgrow it, is not a legitimate response to this because on atheism, there is no reason to expect humanity to progress or grow.

          Yeah. If there is no objective reality, there can be no reality. Or something.

          the agony of struggling to exist, seeing loved ones die, and then dying yourself can never be outweighed by any benefit to existing.

          Must suck to be you. This doesn’t describe my life. (Maybe you should become an atheist?)

          you are unoriginal, you are wrong, and you are an ass.

          And you are a waste of time.

        • JohnH2

          Bob,

          Steve Willy has copied and pasted that comment at least a half dozen times that I have seen. My main reason for thinking that he isn’t a bot is that I think a bot would make more sense.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          OK, thanks. There certainly are some nuts in our blogging/commenting ecosystem.

        • Michael

          Can you say sophistry Steve?

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      I’ve heard this “progressive revelation” idea before and I’m having a hard time seeing how it’s convincing. I mentioned to a Christian friend of mine that early Judaism sure looked like just another Canaanite religion, and he agreed that indeed it was.

      How one’s faith withstands that (unless you’re super progressive, like John Dominic Crossan or Karen Armstrong), I sure don’t know.

      If you want to say that you can squint at the evidence and still preserve your faith, okay, I’ll accept that. But don’t pretend that this isn’t devastating evidence against the Christian claim.

      • Steve Willy

        Thanks for this steaming pile of regurgitated pseudo-intellectual blather, you basement dwelling megadouche.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Bye

      • ctcss

        Bob

        I am not familiar with progressive revelation, but the simple fact is that if God exists, He exists whether or not anyone knows or understands who and what He is, just as pi exists whether or not anyone perceives it and grasps what it is about. In other words, God isn’t holding back info, humans are just taking their sweet time dropping their misconceptions about God and perceiving God properly (IMO). In the meantime, however, God is not going anywhere, just as pi isn’t going anywhere. The “information” is there, it just needs persistent investigation and work, just as it does in any field of endeavor.

        Regarding your post, the interesting similarities between various human mythologies could be viewed as simply keying off the fact that humans have a particular outlook regarding human life and relationships. Thus the commonality between them is the human origin of the stories, not the “truth” of the stories. In a similar way, no matter how many variations of Lamarck’s musings on evolution held by other humans looking at things in a “just so” sort of way would have no bearing on the actual fact of evolutionary theory perceived and put forth by Darwin. Darwin wasn’t building on Lamarck. His investigations gave him a very different way of perceiving what was going on.

        In essence, humans often bumble along until someone perceives something more solid and useful. Then finally humanity can adopt that more helpful view. The things that came before that are not necessarily going to form an unbroken chain of logical progression. Heck, in 1983, Derek Bok the president of Harvard wrote to the Harvard Board of Overseers in his report “Needed: A new way to train doctors” that “Dean Burwell was only partly facetious in stating to Harvard medical students: ‘Half of what we have taught you is wrong. Unfortunately, we do not know which half.’” That’s kind of scary, but it still rings true.

        So the fact that a lot of human stories relating to concepts regarding the divine seem somehow related to each other doesn’t bother me at all. The question is, do any of them actually describe God as God exists? If they don’t, I am not going to worry about them as somehow degrading what it is that I consider to be a more helpful way of understanding God. The fact that someone, sometime, thought about God in another way doesn’t force me to adopt any of their views. I was raised as a non-mainstream Christian, so I have no problem with the fact that I disagree with many “standard” Christian views, just as as I have no problem disagreeing with other different-believing or non-believing views about God.

        I don’t see any dilemma here, just a call for each person to persist in their search until they find their needed answers.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          God isn’t holding back info, humans are just taking their sweet time dropping their misconceptions about God and perceiving God properly (IMO). In the meantime, however, God is not going anywhere, just as pi isn’t going anywhere.

          God’s just chillin’, watching us stumble through life as he drinks a cold one? Sure, that’s one explanation, but what about God being desperate for relationship?

          This is God playing hard to get. Why would he? Or maybe he’s just a trickster.

          The “information” is there, it just needs persistent investigation and work, just as it does in any field of endeavor.

          But “God’s not there” is looking like a pretty compelling alternate explanation.

          Thus the commonality between them is the human origin of the stories, not the “truth” of the stories.

          Yes, I agree. And what does that tell us about the OT stories?

          Darwin wasn’t building on Lamarck.

          But the early Jews were building off of the other myths of the region. Given that those other myths were false, what does that make of the Yahweh story?

          The things that came before that are not necessarily going to form an unbroken chain of logical progression.

          This is what someone adhering to a false religion would say. He’s say, “You haven’t proved my religion false” or “When the facts don’t add up, just have faith.” When your religion has the hallmarks of a false one, perhaps you should question it.

          So the fact that a lot of human stories relating to concepts regarding the divine seem somehow related to each other doesn’t bother me at all.

          “Ya missed me! I’m able to reform my immutable clay religion so that it is impervious to any argument you care to level at me.”

          Yes, I’m sure. But is this religion worth believing in? Is this where the evidence points?

          I don’t see any dilemma here, just a call for each person to persist in their search until they find their needed answers.

          I understand that you don’t see a problem, but I’m trying to figure out why.

          You agree to the mythological origins of your religion. Is your religion based on nothing? Is there anything that would overcome your faith, or is it impervious to all?

        • ctcss

          Bob

          “what about God being desperate for relationship?

          This is God playing hard to get. … Or maybe he’s just a trickster.”

          To the best of my knowledge, God isn’t desperate for a relationship. He already has one with His creation, just as Beethoven had a relationship with his 3rd symphony. That beautiful music reflected Beethoven’s musical nature. God’s kingdom (His entirely spiritual creation) is an expression of God’s nature. Such relationships between creator and that which is created (expressed) do not cease. They are ongoing. And God isn’t playing hard to get any more than a complex musical composition is the composer playing hard to get. Effort is always going to be required on the student’s part in order to grasp a greater idea than the student currently has of the subject matter. And also, since I am not a misotheist, I don’t subscribe to the “evil God” hypothesis either.

          “But “God’s not there” is looking like a pretty compelling alternate explanation.”

          Personally, I’m not buying that, just as I consider “currently unknown concept X isn’t there” is also a bit shortsighted when it turns out that “X” will be known later on.

          “And what does that tell us about the OT stories?”

          That many of them may have been myths adopted and preserved because they were intriguing or spiritually suggestive. However, that doesn’t mean that the more insightful Jews didn’t have a glimmer of spirituality that beckoned them on, even if they didn’t fully understand what it was that they were witnessing.

          “But the early Jews were building off of the other myths of the region. Given that those other myths were false, what does that make of the Yahweh story?”

          No, the Jews recorded what they knew (or interpreted) about the stories just so whatever truth they contained wouldn’t be lost. The more spiritually minded Jews were rather persistent in wanting to understand God more. Just because they didn’t understand everything didn’t mean that they didn’t think there wasn’t something to understand. People who have encountered what they believe to have been divine have a hard time just chucking that very compelling concept. They want to know more. (I certainly can vouch for that sentiment.)

          “When your religion has the hallmarks of a false one, perhaps you should question it.”

          When I come to that conclusion, you’ll be the first to hear of it.

          “I’m able to reform my immutable clay religion so that it is impervious to any argument you care to level at me.”

          Nope. I just don’t find materialism or hypotheses based on it to be very compelling foundation to build a religion focused on that which is spiritual (i.e. divine). You keep focusing on the material. Naturally such materialistic barbs are going to miss. They aren’t even aimed at the correct target.

          “I understand that you don’t see a problem, but I’m trying to figure out why.”

          Because I am not worshiping a book. Rather, I am trying to more fully grasp what it is that the book is referring to. For instance, a less than ideally crafted news story may be missing facts, or may have some facts wrong. That doesn’t mean that there isn’t something interesting for someone reading that story to want to investigate further until they find the real facts about it.

          “You agree to the mythological origins of your religion.”

          Actually, no I don’t. You do, but I don’t.

          “Is your religion based on nothing? Is there anything that would overcome your faith, or is it impervious to all?”

          Of course it isn’t based on nothing. But seeing that you are focused on that which is material and I am focused on that which is spiritual, just how much common ground (common points of reference) do you think that we would share? Basically, I consider the human view of things (the human mental framework) to be largely inadequate and inaccurate when it comes to directly discerning that which is spiritual (i.e. divine). So my focus is to gain a different viewpoint (a spiritual one) to learn to discern more about God and God’s kingdom, which I understand to not be material in any way. So even though you and I both currently perceive ourselves as human and material, I am guessing that you are content with such a view, whereas I am not.

          That’s no judgement on you BTW, nor is it a condemnation of you. (I was taught universal salvation.) It’s also no automatic elevation of me, since I could be wrong about these things. But your main religious interest seems to lie in the historical, the literary, and the archeological end of things. The actual pursuit of the spiritual you seem to feel is a pointless endeavor. And although I also have an interest in the historical, the literary, and the archeological end of things, I am not basing my religious beliefs solely on such things. Religious practice, as I understand such things, is more than a dry rehearsal of religious texts and statements, and a blind faith that somehow God is real. Religious practice is supposed to be a profoundly transforming effort. It is, in essence, what appears to be meant by the word “repent” (to rethink, reconsider). Thus, I am interested in rethinking and reconsidering everything (that is, perceiving everything) as God knows it to be.

          The simple fact of the matter is that I consider there to be “something there” in the concepts taught about God and Jesus Christ. Thus, I want to investigate further. And until I am done and have found nothing (and thus have wasted my time) or have found something (and thus have spent it well), I am not likely to be put off by speculations similar to yours. I find that there is enough evidence in my own experience that I want to pursue my path further. If I reach a dead end, then I may find myself concluding that your take was correct.

          However, I have not reached that dead end yet. Thus my journey continues.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          To the best of my knowledge, God isn’t desperate for a relationship.

          Given his aloofness, I can buy that. Doesn’t he at least want to meet us halfway? Vague enigmas don’t make for a good relationship.

          Sounds like you’re a deist.

          And God isn’t playing hard to get any more than a complex musical composition is the composer playing hard to get.

          I guess. But in the realm of “relationships” (and we define those in human terms), he’s the most frustrating girlfriend ever. Heck, I don’t even know if he exists. With a conventional relationship, this is never a question.

          Personally, I’m not buying that, just as I consider “currently unknown concept X isn’t there” is also a bit shortsighted when it turns out that “X” will be known later on.

          Might unicorns exist? Sure, but there’s no evidence to support such a belief. Ditto with God.

          No one’s claiming that “I see minimal evidence of God, so therefore I’ve proven that he doesn’t exist.”

          That many of them may have been myths adopted and preserved because they were intriguing or spiritually suggestive.

          The lie that tells the truth? Problem is, when we see the origin of the Yahweh story as just mythology, that’s pretty slam-dunk evidence that Yahweh is no more real than Ninurta or Marduk.

          However, that doesn’t mean that the more insightful Jews didn’t have a glimmer of spirituality that beckoned them on, even if they didn’t fully understand what it was that they were witnessing.

          Your belief seems impervious to refutation.

          No, the Jews recorded what they knew (or interpreted) about the stories just so whatever truth they contained wouldn’t be lost.

          Yes, that’s possible, but why pretend that the evidence points us there?? Your argument seems to be, “You can’t prove it wrong.” Granted, but is that really a belief that you want to hold?

          You keep focusing on the material.

          Sure–the material is what we all agree exists. And the supernatural is that clay that I was talking about.

          Natural explanations do a pretty good job. You seem to have a god-of-the-gaps approach—you’re happy with the scientific consensus, I’m guessing, but your god resides in science’s unanswered questions.

          Naturally such materialistic barbs are going to miss. They aren’t even aimed at the correct target.

          Why should I think that that target exists?

          Actually, no I don’t. You do, but I don’t.

          Then I’m confused about your easy acceptance that Yahweh was just the culmination of a long chain of mythological stories.

          I consider the human view of things (the human mental framework) to be largely inadequate and inaccurate when it comes to directly discerning that which is spiritual (i.e. divine).

          That gives you a pretty difficult challenge, constrained as you are as a human. How do you know you’re not deluding yourself?

          The actual pursuit of the spiritual you seem to feel is a pointless endeavor.

          How about you and alchemy? Do you feel that that is pointless? But I bet you’d change your mind if we suddenly found that it actually worked.

          That’s me and the spiritual. Give me a reason to believe that it exists. You seem focused only on your beliefs from your perspective, not in trying to show the rest of us that they’re compelling and worth believing in.

          until I am done and have found nothing (and thus have wasted my time) or have found something (and thus have spent it well), I am not likely to be put off by speculations similar to yours.

          I don’t flatter myself that my insights are especially profound or novel. I can easily believe that my posts don’t dissuade you. Still, being here is part of this journey of yours, right?

        • JohnH2

          “How about you and alchemy? Do you feel that that is pointless?”

          No, it gave us Chemistry which gave us Chemical Engineering which does regularly turn lead and other base elements into valuable currency, as well as curing illness, and extending peoples lives by a few years.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Yes, the process of seeking alchemy gave us good things but, of course, that’s not what I was talking about.

          What about alchemy itself? Is there actually a philosopher’s stone or fountain of youth? Can you, through chemical means, turn base metals into gold?

          No. Not even a little bit. These were fool’s errands. Alchemy doesn’t work. Not 10%, not at all.

        • Nox

          Do you consider the stories about god in the old testament to be among those misconceptions about god? Was that just an earlier view that had to be grown out of?

        • ctcss

          If you mean a vengeful, petty, tribal concept regarding God, yes, I do think it required further growth on the part of many believers of that time, as well as of our own time. People are way too quick to be self-righteous and regard the “other” as dangerous, and thus worthy of destruction, and therefore assume that God would approve of such humanly/tribally acceptable actions.

        • Nox

          I kind of just meant the old testament’s portrayal of god in general (though primarily all the parts where god speaks to people). The nice parts and the not so nice parts. Freeing the slaves and instituting slavery. Dicking the israelites around in the wilderness and protecting the israelites in the wilderness. Killing Job’s family and giving Job a new family. It’s all part of one interwoven picture.

          Vengefulness and pettiness are elements of that picture. He is certainly tribal in the sense of appearing to have been primarily written to rationalize behavior we would now call “tribalism”. More to the point here, he is tribal in the sense of being mostly concerned with one tribe. This is the god who created the Universe and everything in it as nothing more than a backstory for the israelites coming out of Egypt.

          But none of that is what I was asking about.

          The question is about where these misconceptions came from.

          At every stage the biggest impediment to dropping our misconceptions about god seems to have been that those misconceptions came from previously established doctrine. Things we are already committed to believing. Doctrine which is often said to have been revealed to us by god.

          So the question is, was it.

          Humans evolve. Human ideas evolve. Human ideas about god evolve. But does god evolve?

          Essentially, you seem to be saying that we are just coming to a greater understanding of what was there all along. That all these conflicting stories are attempts to discover or convey the same truth.

          This makes sense if god is a human concept, subject to change as human understanding changes. Or some underlying natural force, subject to revised understanding as our observations expand. Or even if you are proposing that god “exists” as a symbol, something which helps us explain reality, or something which we may gain wisdom by meditating upon, but not a real thing that literally exists in the material sense.

          But god as a concept is a very different concept than god as an entity.

          With most concepts we start with zero knowledge and build cumulatively through observation. With gods who manifest in reality to reveal stone tablets or sacrificial lambs, we theoretically start with what that god tells us about themself.

          You reject the idea that god could be giving us bad information, but if god was behind these tribal revelations, then giving us bad information (information that you yourself would consider bad) is exactly what god was doing.

          If humans are getting their misconceptions about god from genuine divine revelation then god is actively moving us further from understanding.

          If god was not the one revealing this misinformation to humans, then at what point does god enter the process of humans figuring out god?

          Babylonians make up gods in a failed attempt to understand what god is. Jews rip off the babylonian gods and modify them in a failed attempt to understand what god is. Christians rip off the jewish god and modify him in a failed attempt to understand what god is. Later christians rip off the earlier christian god and modify him further in a failed attempt to understand what god is…and then at some point that story becomes true.

          Does god ever enter the process at all? Or are all human understandings of god entirely based on a purely human process of bumbling around until we get it right?

          These stories do not merely say “these are our ideas about god”. They often say “this is what god told us directly”. Either god did say those things, in which case god is responsible for what was revealed (or at least it could be said that what was revealed tells us something about who that god is), or those people lied/hallucinated about god talking to them.

          Was there anyone on the mountain giving those commandments to Moses? Did the word come from god or was it just somebody’s guess about what god would say?

          At what point does theology move beyond just being some guy’s guess about what god would say?

      • JohnH2

        To me it is the opposite, I don’t know how one can not have faith when seeing the fallen echos of the gospel taught throughout the world by cultures utterly separated in time and space. God truly loves all His children and gives to each that portion of knowledge that He sees fit in wisdom to give to each.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Wait–we see a hodge podge of incompatible religious claims throughout history and throughout the world and that’s confirming evidence for you?

          Let me put forward another explanation: humans’ imperfect brains tend to see agency where there is none–the unseen rustling in the grass, for example. And we extrapolate that up to cosmic things. What causes plague? earthquakes? the Big Bang?

          Gotta be something huge, right, like a god?

    • Nemo

      Interesting idea, Steve. Now then, since you believe in progressive revelation, tell me, what is your opinion of Joseph Smith? Did the angel Moroni give him the next step of revelation?

      • Steve Willy

        Saying that a phenomenon can happen is not the same as saying that every alleged instance of it is true. Certainly as a big-brained atheist, you understood the logical fallacy of this comment before you made it.

        • Nemo

          The reason I bring up Joseph Smith is the fact that Christians often criticize the Book of Mormon for containing stuff which contradicts the Bible. But if you believe that God progressively revealed himself, first by being the patron god of Israel and the most badass of the sons of Elyon, then as the only God, is that latter revelation not a contradiction of the first? Besides, the rationale given for progressive revelation is that God didn’t think we could handle the whole truth. The Old Testament included commands to kill people for trivial offences. I highly doubt the authors were concerned with whether people could handle what they wrote or not.
          I never made any claims about my intelligence. The fact that you went there says more about you than I.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Besides, the rationale given for progressive revelation is that God didn’t think we could handle the whole truth.

          That’s hard to imagine. Moses came down with the Ten Commandments, and they went into effect immediately. No 20 generations of warning tickets; the penalty was death on day 1.

          I don’t think there’s any kind of moral training wheels in the Bible, just in the minds of Christian apologists.

        • JohnH2

          Bob,

          It is much easier to die for a cause then to live for one. It is much easier to live by a strict set of rules of what one should or should not do then to be told that ones inner motivation should be to Love God and Love’s one neighbor as oneself. It is really easy to not kill a person, but it is much harder to love a person or even to not be angry at the person. It is really quite easy to not steal from someone, it is much harder to serve them. It is easy for most people to not commit adultery, harder to not look on someone to lust after them.

          It is easier to follow a set of rules knowing that punishment is the result for disobedience then it is to do and be good of ones own volition with primarily pain of conscious being the only punishment other than natural consequences of ones actions.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          It is easier to follow a set of rules knowing that punishment is the result for disobedience then it is to do and be good of ones own volition

          Which is why I find the atheists’ moral actions to be more laudable.

        • JohnH2

          It is certainly laudable when those that know not God show by their works the law written in their hearts (Romans 2:13-15). As, Paul further says in Romans those that have a knowledge of God and behave poorly are judged much worse; as God judges our actions based on what we know to be right.

          That doesn’t mean that atheism is right or that theists that behave morally for what they know to be right is not necessarily equally laudable.

          Neither the claim of ignorance, for the atheist, nor the claim of following what those in authority said was right, for the theist, are correct as, barring special cases, no one is ignorant of some measure of good and evil; making both atheist and theist guilty for wrong action, given what they do know to be right (and not answerable for what one doesn’t know to be right). The theist may have and should have more knowledge to answer for.

          Also, you just demonstrated, at least based on my understanding of what Jesus taught, that Jesus really did present a higher law.

        • SparklingMoon

          if you believe that God progressively revealed himself…..
          then as the only God,is that latter revelation not a contradiction of the first?
          ————————————————————–
          In the time of the Prophet Adam, it seems, human beings lived together in one part of the world; one teaching, therefore, was enough for them Possibly even up to Noah’s time they continued to live in this way. According to the Bible, human tribes continued to live together in one part of the world up to Babylonian times. The Bible is not a book of history.But there is evidence which supports the Biblical account.As among all nations of the world, even among savages inhabiting lonely islands, we find traces of the story of Noah’s Flood. It seems unlikely that the whole of the world was first engulfed in a universal deluge, and then knowledge of it spread in all parts of the world. It seems more likely that in one part of the world there was a deluge which resulted in the dispersion of the population in different directions. If it is not proved that the world was one up to Babylonian times, history lends support to the view that it was one up to Noah’s time.

          After Noah’s time the population dispersed into different countries. The influence of Noah’s teaching began to decline, because means of communication were so poor. A Prophet in one country could not communicate his Message to other countries. It was but appropriate then that God should have sent a Prophet to each country,so that no country should be without His guidance.This made for division between religion and religion,because the human mind had not yet fully developed. As human intellect and understanding lacked the development to which they were to attain later, every country had a teaching sent to it appropriate to the level of development to which it had attained.(For example,in India Krishna as a prophet of Law and many others as a reformer(Buddha e .g)to bring people back to original teachings of krishna. In middle east Abraham and later Moses and as a Prophets of law and many others as Reformers Ezekiel, Daniel and Jesus e.g.).

          But when the human race began to advance, and more and more countries began to be inhabited, and distances between them began to be annihilated, and means of communication began to improve, the human mind began to appreciate the need of a universal teaching, covering all the different situations of man. Through mutual contact men came to have insight into the fundamental oneness of the human race and the Oneness of their Creator and Guide. Then in the desert of Arabia, God sent His final Message to mankind through the Holy Prophet of Islam (as before him all prophets appeared and claimed their teachings for their own area and own nation) No wonder, this Message of Prophet of Islam begins by praising God: ”the Lord of the worlds”. It speaks of God to Whom all manner of praise is due, Who sends His sustenance to all peoples and all countries, and in an equitable measure. He is not partial to any country or any people.Therefore the Message which begins thus inevitably ends by invoking: ”the Lord of all mankind, their King and their God. If this world has been created by One God, and if God is equally interested in all peoples and all countries, it is imperative that ultimately these different peoples and different religious traditions should unite in one belief and one outlook.( Introduction to the study of the Holy Quran by Ahmad Bashiruddin)

      • JohnH2

        Joseph Smith was a prophet of God, and like all prophets, and all of us, he was a flawed individual. He did restore a knowledge of the council in heaven of the sons of god and why calling God as our Father actually makes sense.

        The Book of Mormon though isn’t usually criticized for contradicting the Bible, not that I have ever experienced, and I am a Mormon who spends a decent chunks of my free time debating religion online. .

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          [Joseph Smith] was a flawed individual.

          But how far do you take this? Once you go from flawless to flawed, what stops you from acknowledging that he might well have been a charlatan treasure hunter who stumbled on a religion as a cool way to get power and chicks?

        • JohnH2

          Jesus was flawless, everyone else is very flawed. Jonah wanted to see Nineveh destroyed by fire, Moses was a murderer and proud, Jacob’s sons did lots of bad things, Peter denied Christ thrice as well as was impulsive, Paul persecuted Christians and then was fairly proud as well as having, apparently, odd ideas about women. If you are expecting flawlessness from anyone you are going to be disappointed.

          Joseph Smith knew he was going to die when he went to Carthage, he did the sacrifice that was required of him for his transgressions (D&C 132:60), which do appear to be related to misapplications of polygamy given the context (and history). That doesn’t appear to me to be the actions of someone that was in it for power and women, claiming he was crazy like David Korash would make more sense. I know he was a prophet of God via knowledge that comes from God, though he does meet the requirements for a prophet as given in the Bible.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Jonah wanted to see Nineveh destroyed by fire…

          And God supported slavery and wanted to see the Amalekites destroyed to the last infant. That “flawed” thing kind of applies to everyone, I guess.

          If you are expecting flawlessness from anyone you are going to be disappointed.

          Which doesn’t answer the question. Was Smith so flawed that he made the whole thing up? We’ve already agreed that he wasn’t perfect.

          which do appear to be related to misapplications of polygamy given the context (and history).

          How is that possible? God told him that polygamy was OK. Or are you saying that Smith was lying?

        • JohnH2

          “Was Smith so flawed that he made the whole thing up?”

          I don’t believe so.

          “How is that possible?”

          Adultery was still wrong and polygamy was supposed to happen in a certain way and not in other ways. The default is that polygamy is wrong, except if the Lord commands for the purpose of having children.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          God makes clear in the Old Testament that polygamy is A-OK in his book. It wasn’t like a ritual abomination (mixed fabrics, ham sandwiches, homosexuality) that you could say was instantly no longer bad.

        • JohnH2

          I was referencing the Book of Mormon, primarily, and the D&C, secondarily.

        • Ron

          The Book of Mormon isn’t usually criticized for contradicting the Bible? You may want to re-examine that claim, because agent google returns with thousands of hits and multiple apologetics websites devoted to highlighting those contradictions.

    • Don Gwinn

      “Hitchens-Dawkins Parroting Basement-Dwelling Megadouchery” would be a great name for an album.

    • Plutosdad

      But which is more plausible? That stories were copied from other cultures (just as those cultures copied stories) or that one single being put thoughts into people’s heads, but each person only had a small inkling of the thought?

      If you believe the second, then you also have to start questioning that being’s omnipotence and goodness. After all, he could have revealed the law and how to be good and get into heaven to everyone, but he only revealed bits and pieces that confused everyone around the world, most of whom -including the Israelites, were confused into believing in multiple gods.

      And of course, if you didn’t start swearing and insulting people we might be more inclined to argue further, even though this is an old worn out argument that has been addressed time and again.

  • http://www.Kamenriderrecap.com Sneezeguard

    I find Order versus Chaos to be a far more interesting dynamic than Good versus Evil myself.
    Also, the Akkadian myth’s fight sounds pretty badass.

    • Obazervazi

      Honestly, I find that dynamic even more boring. The only difference between order and chaos is that we don’t understand chaos. The distinction is wholly arbitrary. It’s a narrative device only SMT can get away with without bugging me.

  • Nemo

    Not just Ancient Near Eastern. In Norse mythology, the giant Ymir is slain by Odin and the gods, and his corpse is used to create the world. I’ll have to take a look at some of the Far Eastern and Native American myths to see what they say about the subject.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      I wrote about prior dying-and-rising gods (with a picture of Odin) here.

    • JohnH2

      Maya and Aztec both had dying-and-rising gods; not sure about the rest of Native American religions.

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

        Maybe that’s a Joseph Campbell-type archetype common to all cultures. It seems like a straightforward idea–this god is so powerful that you can kill him and he comes back to life! How cool is that??

        Given that, imagining that the early Christians invented the resurrection is hardly startling. When you add that they lived in a stew full of many such myths, it becomes almost mandatory.

  • katiehippie

    The more than one god thing fits with the 1st commandment nicely. “Thou shalt have no other gods before me” In my former church that was understood to mean that other gods were things like the flesh, the world and the devil. I always thought it made much more sense that there were actually other gods but this one demanded to be first.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      Sure–make offerings to other gods if you want to, just make sure that I’m your main squeeze.

      • katiehippie

        “But no more burnt offerings, I can’t get the smell out anymore” I just can’t imagine how bad that would smell…

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Your lady says, “No more chocolate,” and your god says, “No more burnt offerings.”

          Ah, the difficulties of keeping everyone happy in Canaan long ago.

  • http://aliceg95.blogspot.com/ Alice

    I was shocked to learn how similar some ancient stories were to the Bible when reading from my kids Christian world history books. The Code of Hammurabi was quite an eye opener.

  • bee

    so I have spent the last few days searching the internet reading blogs, letters, websites, excerpts from books regarding basically the idea that the Bible was derive from other previous stories/myths. most people in the discussion holding a position to discredit the Bible and it’s beliefs. I looked at it with an open mind because I have always been “WHY” guy I want to do right by my creator. the one thin I fond to b needing more investigation or that people are just assuming and making up their own philosophy on which becomes “truth” in the academic/ atheist world is the assumption I guess that from what w have found/un earthed is what we are taking as time line makers. this thought process seems like if it was written on clay it happened before I was written on paper. and I just wonder is that the scientific process w assume happened in history. lets assume God created the earth and people and things wet bad and was destroyed by God and rebuilt. that story would have ben given to the fist people. how would they have conveyed that story? Verbal reproduction, which has a tendenacy to be distorted through people’s perception, imagination of how the events would have looked and so forth. so a that stage the “truth” is still the truth and being passed on. Then you have the tower of babel which further distorts peopl’s perception, imagination, transfer of info, etc. the reason I believe these things happened is because of the 200-300 accounts of various tribes/groups of people across the globe including people of other continents including amricas and mexico and people who till recent have never been in contact with outside world. this is HUGE I my mid and it tells me the same story with many same details was given t humanity at some point. IF humanity just “felt” a connection to a higher being of creation we would not see the same details as a creator, as a boat to survive floods, as the birds and animals on the boat, as the tower to reach to the heavens; we instead would see creation stories tat would vary greatly and most likely the chance of the same story pieces being used not possible at all. looking back at history people have created a timeline back to 3000-4000 bce. upon reading genealogies and timelines from Bible it puts humanity creation something like 600 bc and tower of babel 3500ish bce. the most important thing here is without exquisite dating like we have today there is undoubtly time frame lapses in there regardles of who you talk to. then I was reading a story about horus I believe (it’s all starting to run together after all this mythogy searching these last day) or maybe I was Gilgamesh where the story about him was written on clay some 100 years after his death and when the actual story took place. but ome have assumed that came first since it was written on clay. now we know groups of people don’t all evolve at same time frame….people wrote on clay when others were writing on papyrs in other areas, further I history people used buggies when other used carts, ten people drove cars while others still sue carts at same time. from this I think anyone might think too much of theirselves if they assume to be able to know what happened 6000 years ago exactly, but my end proposal isthis….with the same story being passed on with such similarities it is absolutely probable that it all origionated from one source, and I think that should make sense to all who study it. now the Bible….I hink it is totally plausible that the Bible is those stories from one source. is it through the perception of those people possibly. isit the truth of history, I believe so. I do not think that since they wrote it on a substrate that teir are had at a later date meant that they didn’t use verbal communication then wrote it instead of copyrighting someone elses thoughts. plus my other two big areas of persuasion are the prophesies in the Bible with such exactness and the population of the earth today. sure people say others have prophesies,exactly, if they origionated from one source then they would have the same vision of the future. I can without a doubt disregard though evolution simply with science. the events that have to take place in order for earth to be formed from dust in space, evolving to reproducing agets needed for ife at the same time millions of years ago is impossible, then if old earth theorists are right and humans started some 2 mill or even 1 mill years ago, earth would be swarming wth an innumerable amount of people today…..ifyou follow the geanology and timeline from creation in the Bible it is more consistent and nearly accurate t todays population on earth.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      Or the whole thing could be just human imaginings. Humans do that.

      Vague elements of the flood story are common among many people. I don’t think we need to go to supernatural explanations.

      • Bob Randall

        Bob Seidensticker is a myth.
        Signed
        GOD

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          And this is to boost my confidence that God exists? Or what?

        • Bob Randall

          Answer not a fool according to his folly.

        • Greg G.

          Soooo… you’re saying we shouldn’t respond to you?

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          You know what the Good Book says: never cast pearls before swine.

        • Bob Randall

          In the good book which you don’t believe you are the swine.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Are you able to actually “give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have … with gentleness and respect”?

          Or are Bible-based insults the best you can come up with?

          If you have an argument for why the gospel story is anything more than myth and legend, I’d like to hear it.

        • adam

          “Or are Bible-based insults the best you can come up with?”

        • Dys

          And in reality, it’s quite often the exact opposite.

        • MNb

          Swine are noble animals. It nicely confirms your arrogant ignorance that you use them as an insult. Of course your big hero behaved like a piece of shit when he drowned (Marcus 5:13 ao) a bunch of totally innocent swine. Yeah, I know it’s a metaphor – with pigs he meant Roman soldiers. He’s still a piece of shit when he uses noble and innocent animals like those pigs for making look Romans bad.

        • Greg G.

          How is it a good book when it doesn’t say “Thou shalt not own others” while condoning the beating those who are owned?

        • adam

          “In the good book which you don’t believe you are the swine.”

          Good book?

        • Bob Randall

          And I thought you were an educated man.

        • Greg G.

          Matthew 5:22 NIV
          Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.

          In light of this verse, I thought it would be safer to assume that you probably weren’t calling other people fools.

        • Bob Randall

          Greg you are dumber than balaam’s a-s. Jesus called his disciples FOOLS so since you don’t know what yiu are talking about and know absolutely nothing about a book you don’t believe I suggest you shut your big mouth because you are making all your atheist brothers and yourself look like very ignorant FOOLS. PS you are in danger of the judgment and if you actually would have read the book you don’t believe in you would remember GOD said, “THE FOOL HATH SAID IN HIS HEART THERE IS NO GOD.” Enjoy Hell that is where you are going if you don’t repent.

        • Greg G.

          God and Jesus are “Do as I say, not as I do” gods. God can kill whomever he wants but it’s OK, but Thou Shalt Not Kill. It is OK for Jesus to call people fools, but he said, “And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.”

          Are you going to obey Jesus or imitate him? Make your choice. You can’t do both.

        • Bob Randall

          Once again you show your ignorance of a book you don’t believe in. GOD included in the Law rules for murder accidental death, self defense and war. Jesus interprets Thou shalt not kill as thou shalt do no murder in the new testament. Your problem is you love your sins and are addicted to your sins so you deny GOD and his words. You think if you ignore them they don’t exist. You can ignore gravity but they still exist and you still obey it. Again you will pay for your own sins in the lake of fire if you reject GOD’s payment for your sin. It is YOUR choice.

        • MNb

          “Your problem is you love your sins and are addicted to your sins so you deny GOD and his words.”
          BWAHAHAHAHA!
          My dear silly christian, we are atheists. The word sin is meaningless to us.

          “Again you will pay for your own sins in the lake of fire.”
          Booooo! I have never been so scared since there was a boogeyman underneath my bed when I was a kid!

          “It is YOUR choice.”
          No, it isn’t. It’s a false dilemma. There is a third option: return to nothingness. That’s what atheists think. And it’s the vastly preferable option.
          Quite an ignorant guy, you are, which is funny given your accusations.

        • Bob Randall

          When you draw your last breath SIN will mean everything to you. As it is appointed unto man once to die and after this the judgment.

        • Greg G.

          Oh, quit fantasizing about death and enjoy life while you have it.

        • Dys

          That which can be asserted without evidence, can be dismissed without evidence.

        • MNb

          Cheapo.
          Shrug.
          Using capitals only makes it worse.

          Plus it does nothing to contradict your stupid and ignorant “atheists love their sins”, which is about here and now, not about our last breaths.

        • Greg G.

          Jesus also interprets getting angry with somebody as being equivalent to murder but it’s still OK for God to get angry with somebody which is like murder in Jesus’ book.

        • Pofarmer

          Heck, it’s O.k. for God to murder the whole world.

        • Dys

          I’ve got some bad news for you Bob-o…just because the bible says it, doesn’t make it true.

          Your problem is that you’re a gullible rube who thinks he can defend Christianity by mindlessly quoting from the bible.

        • Greg G.

          a gullible rube who thinks

          It’s quite a mean insult to accuse a Christian like that of thinking.

        • Bob Randall

          It is true whether you believe it or not you are obeying right now and are too ate up with your hatred of GO and your sins to realize it. Hell is your choice.

        • Dys

          Prove it. Oh, you can’t? Well, I guess you’re just voicing your beliefs then, and not demonstrable reality. But please, continue lying about why atheists don’t believe in God. It’s amusing to watch you repeatedly violate the commandment against lying while inanely ranting about your imaginary friend.

        • Bob Randall

          Demonstrate there is no GOD. Prove it.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          You’re making the extraordinary claim. The burden of proof rests on your powerful shoulders.

          Go.

        • Greg G.

          Prove that invisible pink unicorns don’t exist.

          What a silly person you are. Your God is harder to find than visible pink unicorns. You have nothing but a warm fuzzy feeling when you imagine he exists, the same feelings ancient Egyptians got with their gods.

        • Dys

          Why? The burden of proof is yours. Asking someone to prove there is no god is like asking someone to prove leprechauns don’t exist.

        • MNb

          Define proof.
          Given your ignorance and dishonesty I’ll otherwise assume that you set the bar impossibly high for “demonstrate there is not god” but ridiculously low for “there is a god”. The only way you can refute this assumption is by providing a definition of proof.
          I am not going to play your game if you, dishonest as you are, have set the rules in such a way that you can’t lose.

        • adam

          “with your hatred of GO and your sins to realize it.”

          I have no hatred of IMAGINARY characters in a book.

          Hell?
          Why does a ‘loving god’ need hell?

        • Greg G.

          your hatred of GO and your sins to realize it.

          Who hates GO? you get $200 every time you pass it.

        • Bob Randall

          Just because you say the Bible is not true does not mean it is false. I lose nothing if I am wrong and you lose it all if your wrong including your soul.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Pascal’s pathetic wager? We ask for evidence and this is what you’ve got?

          Think about it, doofus. It applies to you just as much as to anyone else. You err when you imagine that the options are just your version of Christianity vs. atheism.

        • Greg G.

          1 Corinthians 15:19 says that if you are wrong, you are to be the most pitied.

        • Dys

          Pascal’s Wager is a terrible argument – it reduces your faith to a shallow gamble. Plus the notion that you don’t lose anything is wrong – you waste plenty of time believing nonsense. Oh, and there’s no evidence that there’s any such thing as a soul.

          And there’s plenty of untrue things in the Bible. For one, there was never a global flood, there wasn’t a census that would have required Mary and Joseph to go to Bethlehem for Jesus to be born…there’s plenty more.

        • Greg G.

          I can think of a plausible scenario. Quirnius was sent to take account of the holdings in Judea, apparently for tax purposes. If Joseph had a business venture in Bethlehem, say he leased out the family farm, he might have had to register it. I don’t know what would have happened if the owner couldn’t be found but I doubt it would work out in the owner’s favor if he didn’t state his case.

        • Dys

          You mean during that mythical previous governorship Quirinius had before the one in Luke that Christians invented in order to resolve the 4 BC/6 AD issue?

          There’s just no two ways around it – one of the gospels has to be wrong. None of the scenarios to try and explain away the discrepancy hold up.

        • Greg G.

          I mean the one described at the beginning of Antiquities of the Jews, Book 18 .

          I think Luke rejected Matthew’s Nativity story because of God allowing all those babies to be killed and letting Jesus escape. Luke just went to the beginning of the book and wrote something around the first events.

          I think Matthew had used Antiquities of the Jews 2 and modified Josephus’ account of Moses escaping the Pharaoh’s killing of Hebrew babies plus Antiquities of the Jews 17 for Herod being provoked by fear into killing members of his own family.

        • Dys

          Ok, I think I understand your point. There are plausible scenarios to get Joseph to Bethlehem (although I don’t think anything is more plausible than the story being an invention in order to claim a fulfillment of the prophecy in Micah), but it’s still not going to harmonize the gospel accounts.

        • Greg G.

          Matthew tried to solve the conundrum of John 7:41-42 by having Jesus descended from David, born in Bethlehem, as in Micah, but from Nazareth by creating a Nativity story and a genealogy.

          Luke liked Matthew’s approach but rejected his attempts. Luke rewrote the Nativity using his fourth source, Josephus, for the reasons I gave and rejected two-thirds of the genealogy because Matthew omitted four names and included one who was curse plus Matthew claims there were three sets of 14 generations but one set has only thirteen names as if the Exile was a generation. Luke’s genealogy has 77 generations with God as #1 and Jesus as #77. Neither seem to have had records for the generations after the Exile but many of the names in Luke’s are similar to names in Josephus’ genealogy.

        • MNb

          BWAHAHAHAHA!
          I don’t have a soul, so I can’t lose it.
          If I’m wrong I’ll suffer from eternal punishment in Heaven – spending eternity in the company of fools like you is a terrible prospect. If I’m right though I get what I want after I die – return to nothingness.
          Finally you already have lost – you have lost your honesty and that’s something I value high.

        • adam

          “Again you will pay for your own sins in the lake of fire if you reject GOD’s payment for your sin. It is YOUR choice.”

          Fear mongerer

          And you know if you are bad, Santa wont bring you presents next year…..

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          You’ve given a bunch of blather from your own interpretation. Any reason we should consider this authoritative?

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          You’ve shown us nothing but empty bravado. You say there are reasons to believe the Christian argument? Then show us.

          My bet: you’ve got nothing. I hear baby Jesus crying in the distance.

        • MNb

          But it’s of course beneath you to explain to us what we don’t understand.

        • Dys

          Bob, considering you haven’t really bothered to explain what you’re going on about once, you should probably just take your own advice and stop commenting.

        • Bob Randall

          Dys to you and the rest of yuour buddies who call yourself atheists (there is no such thing as an atheist for you all see your god every morning when you wake up and look into the mirror) you criticize a book of which you have never read, YOU quote the scriptures you do not understand and profess you know what GOD (whom you don’t believe in) meant. You are the fools, GOD himself called you fools. Now when all you atheists draw your last breath of his air that GOD allows you to breath your free will that GOD allows in this life ends and you belong to GOD and you will bow the knee to him and you will pay for your sins because you turned your nose up to the Truth. Hell is a choice and you will make it and GOD already paid for your sins. You will and your buddies will only have yourselves to blame. Again you criticize me because I don’t give you some lengthy philosophical explanation but had you read Jesus whom you think you know and quote when he dealt with the educated people of his time did not give them an answer either. You and your buddies really know very very little about Jesus or GOD or his words. Now FAITH COMETH BY HEARING AND HEARING BY THE WORD OF GOD. So if you want to know what I am talking about then read every word in the Bible and ask GOD to show you and I guarantee he will. As far as bob s and his site he insulted my GOD so if he nor you can’t take the heat then get out of the kitchen and close your sight down. Atheism is a myth just like all atheists are a myth, they don’t exist. They do not want to admit they will pay for their sins so they like little bottle sucking babies who don’t want to obey their parents Pretend GOD and his laws do not exist. Now that is foolish. So since you and your buddies are thin skin sissies I am sorry I hurt your feelings I should have known I was dealing with a bunch of children. Hell is your choice and you will put yourself there.

        • Dys

          Are there any stupid Christian apologist tropes you don’t fall into Bob?

          Plenty of atheists have read the bible, and considering your rather infantile method of commenting, I daresay most have a better understanding of it than you.

          And, as we all know, just because something’s written in a book, doesn’t make it true. That includes the bible. All you’re doing is confusing what you believe with actual knowledge. They aren’t the same thing.

          You’re being attacked because you’re incapable of defending your beliefs against criticism.

          Now run along. Maybe when you grow up, you’ll be capable of adult conversation. You’re obviously just another ignorant troll who can’t adequately defend his religion.

        • Bob Randall

          No dys the problem is i gave the key to fool why one would be in danger of the judgment when Jesus called his disciples fools. Now a really intelligent man who really is interested in truth and not just running his mouth parroting something other ignorant fools said would actually think about that and learn the reason. So dys you run along and enjoy what you have left of your life GOD allows you to live, because all of heaven you are ever going to see is right here. Jesus Christ died for your sins and if you reject GOD’S payment for your sins then you will pay. Be sure your sins will find you out.

        • Greg G.

          You are quoting people who didn’t know where the sun went at night.

        • Dys

          No, the problem is that you’re incompetent and can’t defend your beliefs. So you’ll just continue making assertions that you can’t and won’t back up, because at the root of this, you’re an intellectual coward.

        • MNb

          “Now a really intelligent man who really is interested in truth and not just running his mouth parroting something other ignorant fools said.”
          BWAHAHAHAHA!
          Well, you are parrotting other ignorant fools – the ones who wrote the Bible and the ones who believe(d) them hence you are not a really intelligent man and not really interested in the truth.
          Thanks for disproving your own belief. That saves us the effort.

        • adam

          ” (there is no such thing as an atheist for you all see your god every morning when you wake up and look into the mirror)”

          No that is what theists do,

          Definition of atheism

          2 a : a disbelief in the existence of deity

          Atheists dont believe in gods.

        • Greg G.

          FAITH COMETH BY NOT THINKING.

        • MNb

          “there is no such thing as an atheist for you all see your god every morning when you wake up and look into the mirror,”
          BWAHAHAHAHA!
          No, I’am not as arrogant as you. Whenever I look into the mirror (no matter what time) I only see MNb, who is 100% human.

          “Hell is a choice …..”
          Pssst … I have news for you.
          There is no hell.
          There is no heaven either.
          No matter how often you repeat this nonsense, they remain imaginary.
          Just like your god.

        • adam

          “Hell is a choice and you will make it and GOD already paid for your sins.”

          So why do I need to ‘believe’ in anything if it is ALREADY PAID FOR?

          And sin?

        • Dys

          Well, it’s certainly foolish to come to an atheist page, spout of a few trolling responses, and expect to be taken seriously Bob. So in this instance, you’re most definitely the fool.

          And really, until you actually demonstrate some ability to have an intelligent conversation, you’re not in any position to criticize someone else for dismissing your infantile replies. You get what you dish out.

        • Greg G.

          deleted. Hit wrong Reply.

        • Dys

          Instead, just repeat things out of the bible and pretend you’ve answered the critic successfully, instead of just employing a deflecting tactic. Because critical examination of religion is scary to some believers (because so little of it withstands serious scrutiny).

          I’m sure that if Jesus was actually alive, he’d be very proud of your incompetent trolling.

        • Greg G.

          Bob Seidensticker is a legend.

          Signed,
          God Dammit

        • Dys

          Tsk tsk…Bob is falsely attributing words to God. Isn’t that a sin?

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

    My point is that if there is no grounding for the beliefs, then we have nothing but calcified tradition, built on nothing, for modern Christianity.

  • Andrew

    I think this argument falls into the same type of literalist fundamentalism that it tries to critique. If you think that the text is foundational truth, then you have misunderstood what text does. It can only point to something outside it or create an imaginary that enhances the hallucinatory function of our frontal lobes. The best representations do both. But I still don’t see why pointing out that the idea of Yahweh and Satan evolves in the bible would indicate that these stories don’t still point toward an ontological being or beings (I’m a Satan agnostic). It’s basically sunday school 101 to understand that beliefs in Israel and the early Church, and the golden age, and the medieval period and the reformation and beyond have always been in flux. I actually really enjoyed your article, I just didn’t think the atheist deus ex machina made much sense at the end.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

    An unchanging God doesn’t change. He doesn’t change his plan of salvation, he doesn’t change his perfect character, and so on.

    You could say that humans’ perceptions changed, which I agree with, but then we have God as a bungler who can’t clearly convey the most important message of all.

    The Christian story looks precisely like any other ancient religion or mythology. Sure, this could be the one that’s actually true, but there’s no good reason to imagine that.


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