Biblical History

The most horrific, cruel, and damnable story in the Bible

There are many horrific things in the Bible. This story, however, is my nomination for the most cruel and damnable tale in the Bible.

First some background: The Hebrews recently invaded Canaan, destroyed many cities, killed many people and then, as they were camped near Midianite territory some of the Midianite women “invited” the Hebrew men to join them in sexual exploits and worship of locals gods (Numbers 25:1-2). The Hebrew men were not forced to participate, they chose it themselves. Moses, purportedly at Gods initiative issues the command to be hostile against the Midianites.

Some time passes and the Bible depicts God as urging the Israelites to go back, and wreak revenge on the Midianites for inviting some of the Israelite soldiers to join them. So the Israelites attack and utterly destroy all of the enemy combatants, leaving only the defenseless women (many who are no doubt pregnant or elderly), as well as the little boys and girls. These little women and children are spared to be kept as slaves. (Numbers 32:9-10)

Then Moses angrily commands that these defenseless captives be killed. This includes weeping grandmothers, pregnant women, mothers with their children weeping in their arms. (Numbers 31: 17-18). The little boys, all those who were too young to fight as well as babies, are also to be brutally executed.

And finally, when it comes to the little girls, those that are virgins are given away as booty to the soldiers, while all others are to be massacred. In every single military victory in recorded history, the winning army rapes girls, this is an unchanging historical regularity. And while this is not explicit in the text, it’s more than likely these girls became concubines (sexual slaves) as this is accepted elsewhere in Israelite culture, and there are even biblical laws that permit Hebrews to take captives for sexual purposes (Deut 21:10-11). Little girls given away to the same men who had just brutally executed their families.

Even if these girls are not used for sexual purposes, one must imagine the absolute horrors that these tiny girls experienced. Imagine a tiny seven year old sweetheart, seeing her defenseless pregnant mother being viciously sliced open and falling dead on the ground. Imagine the agonizing screams as she sees her younger brothers, grabbed by calloused soldiers hands, and heartlessly stabbed, beat, pierced until they choke on their own blood.

This, ladies and gentleman, is the Bible you don’t read.

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Belief in an afterlife did not emerge until nearly the end of the writing of the Hebrew Bible

Did the ancient Hebrews believe there was a heaven and hell? Most likely not.

Most biblical scholars say they did not (this coincides with the fact that the Sadducees during the period of Jesus, which included all the Jewish temple priests, did not believe in a Resurrection).

Marcus Borg writes:

“For a long time now, mainstream biblical and theological scholarship has recognized that the belief in an afterlife did not emerge until nearly the end of the writing of the Hebrew Bible. The first unambiguous reference occurs in the last chapter of Daniel, seen by most scholars as the latest document of the Hebrew Bible, written around 165 BCE. Though the authors of the Psalms and other books often pray for deliverance from death, there is no clear affirmation of an afterlife until Daniel.This means that for all the previous centuries of the biblical period, people in ancient Israel didn’t believe in life after death. To state the obvious, “going to heaven” could not have been their motive for taking God seriously.”borg marcus

The Hebrews were not likely monotheists, but henotheists

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Biblical and historical scholars think the evidence shows that the Hebrews were not monotheistic, but henotheistic, meaning they believed other gods existed, but theirs was the only one worthy of worship.

Alan T. Levenson, a professor of Hebrew history states that: “In the opinion of most Bible scholars, the ancient Israelites were monolaters or henotheists, who affirmed their allegiance to one God (YHVH), but acknowledged the presence of other gods for other nations. Not until a much later period… did Israel accept that God was one and omnipresent.”

“Archaeologists have turned up numerous statuettes of YHVS’s divine consort [wife] Asherah centuries after the prophet Amos had proclaimed Gods universal sovereignty. Synagogue services feature the verse from Exodus, “Who is like you among the gods, YHVH?” a question that makes more rhetorical sense if there are other gods, albeit false ones, with whom to compare the God of Israel.”

There are two different dates and times for the crucifixion of Jesus

crucifixion dates

As a kid I was always confused as to why different Christian groups have different days for the crucifixion (some say it was Thursday, others Friday). This uncertainty runs even deeper than tradition, for even the Gospels of Mark and John narrate different dates for the crucifixion.

In this example, there have been plenty of attempts by apologists to reconcile these two conflicting dates, speculating that perhaps John was using some different way of telling time or perhaps in one of the narratives Jesus decided to celebrate the Passover one day earlier, and thus it can be called “Passover” in that narrative, even while the other narratives refer to that date as “before Passover.” However, none of these highly speculative attempts have ever been taken seriously, and today, the view of mainstream New Testament scholars remains that:

“John differs from the Synoptic Gospels also in the date which he gives for the crucifixion:

According to Mark the last supper was a Passover meal; that is, it was eaten in the early hours of Nisan 15; the arrest and trial took place in the same night and in the course of the next (solar) day Jesus was crucified. All these events took place on Nisan 15. “

-According to John the crucifixion happened on Nisan 14, the day before the Passover; the last supper must have been eaten the preceding evening. Thus the events are set a day earlier than in Mark, and the last supper is no longer the Paschal meal; Jesus died at the time when the Passover sacrifices were being killed in the Temple. Here again is a real contradiction; it seems impossible to reconcile the dates.”

– C. K. Barrett, President of the Society for New Testament Studies (1973)

William Dever, a leading archeologist argues the Hebrew Bible is overlaid with legendary material that can’t be history

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The consensus of biblical archaeologists is that the Hebrew Bible contains much history but its “overlaid with legendary and even fantastic materials that the modern reader may enjoy as ‘story’ but which can scarcely be taken seriously as history.”

William G. Dever, commonly referred to as “America’s leading archaeologist of Israelite history” writes: “While the Hebrew Bible in its present, heavily edited form cannot be taken at face value as history in the modern sense, it nevertheless contains much history.

Let me begin by clarifying which books of the Hebrew Bible I think can be utilized by the would-be historian, whether textual scholar or archaeologist. With most scholars, I would exclude much of the Pentateuch, specifically the books of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers. These materials obviously constitute a sort of “pre-history” that has been attached to the main epic of ancient Israel by late editors… As for Leviticus and Numbers, these are clearly additions to the “pre-history” by very late Priestly editorial hands, preoccupied with notions of ritual purity, themes of the “promised land,” and other literary motifs…

All this may be distilled from long oral traditions, and I suspect that some of the stories – such as parts of the Patriarchal narratives – may once have had a real historical setting. These traditions, however, are overlaid with legendary and even fantastic materials that the modern reader may enjoy as “story” but which can scarcely be taken seriously as history.”

(William G. Dever “What Did the Biblical Writers Know & When Did They Know It? – What Archaeology Can Tell Us About the Reality of Ancient Israel” 2001 – William B. Eerdmans Publishing )

Most biblical scholars say the gospels are anonymous documents by unknown authors

“All four of the canonical gospels were originally anonymous. It was only in the second century CE, when the four gospels were published a a collection that the superscriptions were added to the gospels, attributing authorship to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John respectively. This is also the time that traditions begin to appear about the authors, claiming that they were either original apostles of Jesus or close acquaintances of other well-known apostles. in spite of these attributions, most scholars do not think any of these men were the original gospel writers. None of the gospels is written in a style that suggests the authors was present at the events being narrated. Nor is it likely that the disciples of Jesus were able to write in Greek, the language in which the gospels were written. So we are left with the reality that the gospels were written by anonymous Christians decades after the events that they relate.” (1)

Dr. David M. Carr (Union Theological Seminary) & Dr Colleen M. Conway (Seton Hall University)

 

“The four Gospels were published anonymously… they seem to have been written with no authors names attached. We don’t know how or when these names were attached to these Gospels’ that is lost to history.” (2)

Dr. Dale Martin (Yale University)

 

“The four Gospels were written anonymously between A.D. 70 and 100, and assembled into a collection about A.D. 125. The authors did not provide them with titles, others added them later.” (3)

Dr. David E. Aune (University of Notre Dame)

 

“Formally speaking, all four canonical Gospels are anonymous since their authors names are not mentioned anywhere within the context of the verses themselves… The superscript of each of the four Gospels is not an original part of the document.. it was likely later appended to the scroll for identification.” (4)

Dr. Ben Witherington (Asbury Theological Seminary)

Does the Bible undeniably teach marriage is a monogomous union between one man and one woman?

Biblical scholars Dr. Robert R. Cargill, Dr. Hector Avalos, and Dr. Kenneth Atkinson, say this is due to “a lack of biblical literacy.”

We wish to clarify that the biblical texts do not support the frequent claim that marriage between one man and one woman is the only type of marriage deemed acceptable by the Bible’s authors.

The fact that marriage is not defined as only that between one man and one woman is reflected in the entry on “marriage” in the authoritative Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible (2000): “Marriage is one expression of kinship family patterns in which typically a man and *at least* one woman cohabitate publicly and permanently as a basic social unit” (p. 861).

In fact, there were a variety of unions and family configurations that were permissible in the cultures that produced the Bible, and these ranged from monogamy (Titus 1:6) to those where rape victims were forced to marry their rapist (Deuteronomy 22:28-29) and to those Levirate marriage commands obligating a man to marry his brother’s widow regardless of the living brother’s marital status (Deuteronomy 25:5-10; Genesis 38; Ruth 2-4).

Others insisted that celibacy was the preferred option (1 Corinthians 7:8; 28). In fact, during a discussion of marriage in Matthew 19:12, Jesus even encourages those who can to castrate themselves “for the kingdom” and live a life of celibacy. Ezra 10:2-11 forbids interracial marriage and orders those people of God who already had foreign wives to divorce them immediately.” (1)

Perhaps this meme, though oversimplified, is relevant
biblical-marriage