Also, I have been doing research about the religions in the ancient Near East, like the religions of Mesopotamia and Canaan. There are clearly rituals that were practiced in both religions, parallels, and doublets in the texts and I want to know why. What shakes me even more is that the Torah was compiled around the 8th century versus textx like the Epic of Gilgemesh and Enuma Eilish which have about 500 years on it. Please explain this.
I have read a numer of books written by people who ascribe to these theories. You should be aware that, as in many fields (such as education, economics, music, art) there are fads and hot theories in biblical studies. Source theory is a good example of this sort of fad theory. I do believe that the theories of these folks are not completely without validity. One of the problems is that conservative believers have had a tendency to ignore some obvious questions and to stick to simplistic theories. For example, many if not most evangelicals have held to the idea that Moses wrote the first five books of the Bible. Surely this is not true. There is not a shred of direct evidence that Moses wrote Genesis. Although he did write down significant parts of what became Exodus through Deuteronomy, it is patently obvious that Moses did not write the entire content of these books, especially considering that Deuteronomy includes a record of his death! This conservative stance has made such scholars vulnerable to criticism from liberal theologians who do not believe in God or in the inspiration of the Bible.
Probably a significant proportion of what you have learned from teh books you have been reading is true, but you should be extremely cautious of such writings. The vast majority come from people who are highly biased and have an agenda to destroy faith in scripture.
Let me give an example. It is fairly obvious from the writing style of Genesis that more than one author was involved in creating the book. For all we know, there may have been multiple authors whose work was collected and put into its final form by a later editor. All this is fine, but here is where the authors you are reading are way off. Their theories of the J source and the P source etc. is extremely speculative. The idea that the Bible has contrdictory ideas or theology is simply not true. The entire Bible is inspired by God. The claim that the different versions of the flood contradict is simply not true. It is very easy to justify the different parts of this story, as is true with all or nearly all the supposed J/P/etc. theological contradictions. These authors choose (for reasons they will have to explain) to ignore the absolutely overwhelming evidence for inspiration of the Bible. They have a presupposition against the existence of the supernatural. Anyone who approaches the scripture using a presupposition that it is not inspired is surely going to miss the boat VERY often. That is the case with the authors you have been reading in my opinion.
Were there opposing groups such as those created by these scholars? Maybe. We do not know for sure. Remember that these folks are way overconfident about their speculations, but perhaps there is some truth here. Did their different points of view have some effect on the final form of the Pentateuch? Maybe they did, but even if there is some truth here, the basis for thinking of these skeptical scholars is based on a patently false assumption: that there is no basis for believing that the production of the Bible was affected by the Holy Spirit. One should consider carefully the presuppositions of the authors one reads.
Now, to address your examples, I will need some specifics. Feel free to send me the claims you have seen. I can say that I have read the liberal theories about the flood and found them to be very unconvincing. If you simply look at the account with a different eye, what seems obvious at first is easily understood differently.
I have addressed the sources of the creation and flood accounts–especially the Gilgamesh Epic elsewhere. I will copy and past what I have written. Three Q & As are below.
Before that, one more comment. Parts of the Old Testament were composed at the time of the exodus and Genesis has evidence of oral material from even earlier. Which is older? The Gilgamesh Epic or the original version of the Bible’s flood story? Bottom line, we simply do not know. Be aware that these scholars are quite biased and they have personal reasons to undermine the authority of the Bible. You simply cannot trust these people. They have a consistent and obvious tendency to place the writings of various Bible books as late as they possibly can. Can I say for sure that the biblical flood account goes back to Abrahamic times? No I cannot. But at least I am willing to admit that I am not sure. Neither can these writers prove that it was written in the seventh century BC. In the end it comes down to the quality of the biblical account versus that of the Babylonians. I believe that the biblical version is vastly superior. Feel free to send more questions with more specifics.
How do you explain the similarities between the Babylonian Gilgamesh epic
and the flood account in the Bible?
There are five logical explanations I can think of for the admittedly
striking similarities between the two accounts:
1. It is coincidence.
2. They are both a record of an actual event (even if semi-mythical as
described by the Babylonians).
3. The Jews borrowed their account from the Babylonians.
4. The Babylonians borrowed from a more primitive and accurate flood
story, which was also the source of the Jewish story.
5. The Babylonians borrowed from the Jewish flood story.
I reject explanation number one as defying believability.
For chronological reasons, I reject explanation #5, but I cannot
absolutely rule it out, as Abraham lived around 1850 BC.
Between explanation 2-4, I prefer explanation #2 or #4, as the Hebrew
account has less of the feel of a classic myth. For this reason, it does
not make sense to me that the Jews borrowed straight from Gilgamesh. The
Jews working from a more primitive and accurate source makes more sense to
me. I can admit to you that my predisposition to believe the Bible is
inspired may cause my interpretation of the information to be biased. I
am sure you can reach your own conclusion! It is my belief that God
influenced, by inspiration, the Genesis account. I will admit that I
cannot prove this, and that this is a presupposition based on other
evidence for inspiration. The point is that Gilgamesh has all the marks
of a myth. The Genesis flood account has a very different feel to it.
The similarity connot be coincidental, but the superior account is that of
the Jews in my opinion.
I recently viewed a documentary claiming that ancient tablets (older than
The ancient tablets you refer probably contained what is
There are significant similarities between the Gilgamesh epic
Assuming the second possibility, the question becomes who borrowed
If the Bible, and therefore Genesis, is indeed inspired by God, then
As to the Israelites receiving the story from the Neo-Babylonians
John Oakes, PhD
Every one knows the story of Noah and his ark. Some believe it, some
In the end, it will be difficult to prove the case either
One might argue that this is circular reasoning. The skeptic
John Oakes, PhD