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On Monotheism and Semantics

In sorting through some tricky passages in the Bible, one would due well to remember the curious case of the the two gurplisms, monogurplism and polygurplism, which are practiced in Gurplestan to this day. Monogurplists and polygurplists are constantly warring and burning each other’s temples over what they regard as a supremely important question: how many gurples there are.

gurple, for a Gurplestani, is the most powerful kind of being in the universe. All Gurplestanis believe that the universe and its various inhabitants were originally created by Yobi, father and ruler of all souls. In order to curry his favor, Gurplestanis offer Yobi beer, goat’s flesh, and incense every Thursday. (more…)

What is the Primary History?

Primary History and Enneatuch are both terms for the continuous narrative, written anonymously, stretching from the creation to the middle of the Babylonian exile. It is conventionally divided into nine or eleven “books”: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Samuel (I&II), and Kings (I&II). How many authors it had, when it was written, and how it was redacted are all in dispute. I use the term “Primary History” as a term of convenience, and not as an endorsement of any particular theory.

By volume, it contains roughly half of the Hebrew Bible. Eight of its nine books concern the story of a socio-political group known as “Israel,” divided for much of the narrative into a northern (“Israel”) part and a southern (“Judah”) part. Generally speaking, the Hebrew Bible as it stands is more concerned with and more favorable towards the southern polity and people: Judah, from whose name we later get Judea, Judaism, and Jewish. This much is clear: the narrative begins with myth and ends with stories involving actual historical characters. What is not clear is exactly how much of the story is historically reliable, and how much consists of embellishments and fabrications. (more…)

What is the Hebrew Bible?

The Hebrew Bible is a collection of texts, commonly called ‘books.’ I divide it into two parts: the “Primary History” and everything else, probably because I was a reader of the “Ancient Hebrew Poetry” blog of John Hobbins in its heyday. See here for Hobbins attempting to describing the Hebrew Bible “in 1000 words or less.” This is my attempt to do the same. (more…)

“The Incongruous Clause in Gen. XIII. 10”

That’s the title of an journal article by W. W. Moore, found in the University of Chicago Press’s The Old Testament Student, Volume 6, Number 8 (April 1887), pages 237-240. It’s available online for free, having passed out of copyright some time ago, here, courtesy of the kind folks at JSTOR. Here’s how it starts:

“And Lot lifted up his eyes, and beheld all the plain of Jordan, that it was well-watered every-where, before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, like the land of Egypt, as thou comest unto Zoar.” The last clause seems, from its position, to qualify “the land of Egypt.” But this construction deprives the statement of all meaning, inasmuch as Zoar was not in or near the land of Egypt. The clause is equally unintelligible, whether we place the pentapolis, of which Zoar was a member, at the southern or at the northern end of the Dead Sea.

Most commentators quietly ignore this difficulty. Others evade it by arbitrarily re-shaping the whole sentence. . . .  (more…)

On Genesis 12:3

And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.

Genesis 12:3, KJV. (more…)

Who Was Nimrod?

In Genesis 10:8-12, four verses tell the story of Nimrod (if the last two verses are about him at all). Nimrod is then mentioned again only in Chronicles, which simply copies one line from the Genesis story (1 Chronicles 1:10), and in Micah 5:8, which refers to Assyria as the “land of Nimrod,” but does not say anything more about Nimrod the character.

So without further ado, here’s everything the Bible says about Nimrod (Genesis 10:8-12, KJV): (more…)

What did Ham do to Noah?

One of the Bible’s odder stories is Genesis 9:20-27, which reads as follows, according to the 1917 Jewish Publication Society Bible: (more…)