The New Leprosy

What does it take for truth to emerge from myth. It takes a ray of sunlight of real knowledge, and then the clouds of ignorance burn away rapidly.

One of the really surprising things about the Phoenicians is their lack of literature. They invented the alphabet, which we still use today, here on our keyboards, changed only slightly to make the letters easier to form, but the Phoenicians were merchants and left few non commercial documents. Later, of course, at Carthage, their descendants began the flowering of culture that gave rise to Greece, which fed Rome, which fed us. The southern branch of the Phoenicians, or sea people, were called Philistines by the Hebrews.

One would think the two warring cultures would have been quite dissimilar. The recent discovery of some few Phoenician letters shows them to have been surprisingly alike, excepting only some idols and the temple prostitutes so favored among the worshippers of Baal. It is recalled that David spent five years living among the Edomites, one group of the Philistines, before he came to favor among his own people. Thus, we are not surprised to find the Bible to be a rather typical document for its times and location. The astronomy in Genesis, supposedly derived from Abraham, who studied at the pagan Mesopotamian centers of learning, is not uniquely Hebraic, it is of the ancient world and part of the times. The flood story is all over the ancient near East, and our version is probably not unique.

Not surprisingly then, the business in Genesis about the firmament up in the sky was pure Mesopotamian and spoke to what everyone believed at the time, particularly the learned individuals. It is false of course, there being no firmament up there from which the stars hang. The Hebrews it seemed, were anxious to be up to date as they copied down their old religious documents from hundreds of years earlier and perhaps gave them a contemporaneous context which made everyone comfortable. Some of the cities named in the Old Testament were not even in existence until hundreds of years after the events described, showing that the Old Testament is a retrospective, not the original. The purity and accuracy of what we have is unknown. Certainly, it is unlikely God told Moses there was a firmament up in the skies, since there is none unless NASA is lying to us. Some scribe educated in Sumeria about firmaments was probably getting a little carried away there.

What gets us off the hook if we believe in the Bible is that it was not recorded until perhaps nine hundred years after Moses lived, so we cannot vouch for the accuracy of things and suspect some editing by copyists and those who thought they knew better, later on down the line. So sometimes it helps if we see the context of things. Ditto, for Solomon