What if all of western thought was based upon a text that turned out to be one of the most entrenched and )long-standing mythologies in the world scholarship, both ecclesiastical and “secular?” That is the proposal of this blog frame. The nature of my claim, shortened in a grossly oversimplified way, is called “The Non-existence of the Hebrew Bible.” What does this mean? I argue thus (and hold your horses since I have many qualifications to offer):
The famous, ancient scrap, known as the “Silver Amulets,” a priestly benediction from the book of Numbers (about two verses I think), represents the oldest known text of anything from the BIble. I believe this shows the beginning of the production of the first of the Five Books of Moses. These five, the Torah or “Pentateuch,” came into existence in the 7th century BC. No other book of the BIble — as later counted — some 39 books of the OT as protestants count — ever existed prior to the destruction of Jerusalem in 586.
In this sense — the 37 or else 39 books of the later OT — there was no “Hebrew Bible.”
Here is the most outlandish claim, which I shall blog upon also at a later time, in my continuing support of this theme, THAT no standardized account of THIS OT existed until the Massoetic Text of the Medieval Era (916). This Text produced the modern notion, in a standardized, fixed form, of “THE H.B.”
The idea that this Hebrew BIble was in current use among the ancients is easily rebutted from the many ancient texts. THIS is what I mean by saying, that, the idea of THE Hebrew Bible is one of the most impressive and outstanding myths in the history of western civilization.
It was actually just the Torah that was in use among the ancients (most of the time). This makes the myth that they used the 39 book OT a bit like selling that they used calculus to build their roads. This math system came into the world in 1666.
Next I shall begin mustering evidence in favor of this position. But before I do, I have to mention that my reasons for posting this unorthodox position is that it represents an ABSOLUTE GAME-CHANGER, and shows that the textual basis for both the Vulgate (the official RCC Bible) and the KJV and the many other protestant OT Bible translations — ARE ALL BOGUS by their own standards.
Jerome (and his scribes) obviously rendered their own translation of the Hebrew text, as supposedly did the Septuagint scribes and others. I believe this was not just A common practice, but THE COMMON practice among the ancients. And the supplemental texts, and the cultural and theological biases they employed in this process (translation) accounts for the widely variant differences, as well grammatical and stylistic differences resulting from different LGG’s used as the target language.
This meant that there was no ONE HEBREW BIBLE, but rather many of them, with a wide range of different readings and variants.
If I make my mark here, it refutes all western religion. Expect a dogfight – laid out in scholarly terms, of course.
Here are a few important points to note about the so-called Hebrew Bible:
The LXX (Septuagint, Greek OT) was by the account of most scholars, produced from 250 to 100 (B). The obvious question to ask is this: If you had a HB to be used for a template to translate it into Greek, why would it take 70 scholars more than, say, 5 to 10 years to translate it? I could easily manage the task myself in about 20 year, working alone — never mind the point of having 70 assistants.
Even if one has the more traditional view that the work was completed in the lifetime of the king under whose supervisor-ship the translation project was supposedly initiated (Ptolemy Phildelphos II, ca. 285 – 250) it still needs explaining. If one already has a Hebrew Bible text in place, and one simply wants to create a one-to-one correspondence text, why would it take 70 scholars more than 5 years?
It would not. The project looks like a single person, with the help of a few rabbis, put together — from the Hebrew Torah, using its Hebrew to create from oral tradition behind the Targums and the Hebrew of some written texts (Loose leaf Isaiah, see DSS) — enough of an understanding of Hebrew to create a translation-base (Hebrew) Bible.
This do-it-yourself HB, say covering some 80% of the textual range of the (much later) MT, then was used to grow its own base, translating the remaining texts desired (either from Greek or Aramaic) to make up the whole “Hebrew BIble” base, later used to create the LXX.
One such strategy a person could use to build out an entire Bible in Hebrew from Torah would be to use synonym-clustering. Find a word in Hebrew that matches a Greek verb, then map out synonym sets for both verbs — each in its own tongue.
Create synonym clusters this way, a way that amounts over time to creating a Hebrew – Greek Thesaurus. By doing this, on an ongoing basis, one can learn — better and better — how to fit which Greek words with which Hebrew words. This could be GROWN from a mere Hebrew Torah and a few “loose-leaf” prophets — Isaiah, et al
The only problem with this Lone-ranger, Hebrew Bible practice, is that the results vary widely, depending upon translator skills, cultures, theologies, and personal predilections. And this is just what the myriad “Hebrew Bible”-based translation efforts display,
This method requires both fewer people and less time by far to create the first DIY “Hebrew Bible,” — Like the Peshitta group and the Latin Vulgate group did — than anything like the elaborate conditions described by the Letter of Aristeas — the traditional view of King Ptolemy as Patron, the Seventy divines, etc. Think Ockham’s Razor.
The Targums still treated Hebrew as the primary “divine language” in the synagogues in the period leading up to the production of the LXX. But Daniel, ESTHER (note the ARAMAIC title) and Ezra-Nehemiah were originally written in ARAMAIC, not Hebrew. So these, probably with the entire earliest KETUVIM, needed to be translated into Hebrew, because:
- Synagogues held Hebrew as the primary, and Aramaic as the secondary, divine tongue.
- Torah was already in Hebrew only. So, in the interest of uniformity, that is, of having a complete OT Bible in just one language, everything had to be translated into Hebrew.
Here is an interesting catalogue of problems for those who challenge this view.
- 250 to 100 is too long — way too long, for 70 able scholars
- The MT does not agree with the LXX, with the Peshitta, or the Vulgate (very much). The Vulgate is (some say humorously) accretive.
- Aquila had to manage many variant LXX versions only 200 years after the original was completed, when a Hebrew Bible was supposedly around to prevent this condition. The HB failed as referee. OR was it simply absent?
- Aquila does not seem aware of any HB, despite all the h.oopla to the contrary. He nearly always compares different editions of the LXX, and tries to find the least common denominator, Golden Mean, reading. This makes for the short and choppy reading, every time. Say much. Use few. Conserve ink. Love Aquila. P.s. The Spartans the Athenians defeated.
- According to the Theodotus Inscription, LXX Greek was the synagogue “Holy LGG” in 50, in Jerusalem, as with the bone-box (Ossuary) writings at grave sites.
- But the NT records dissent from Diaspora Hellenistics. The Sadducees were “Hebraists,” meaning the Bible was allowed only in Hebrew (and the Targums “sort-of” agree, they might appeal), and so they only accepted Torah, and perhaps some allowed Isaiah. This explains the quotation patterns of the NT, which most oft quotes Torah, then next most often quotes Isaiah.
- Also, the dominical rejoinders have words like “Every Sabbath is Moses read in your synagogues” — Torah was considered safe ground, free from dispute about its authority.
- Sometimes the NT mentions “Moses and the prophets” which means the first five books and some of the prophetic writings, the ones that may be found in Hebrew, but only those prophets, or “Moses and the Hebrew-text Prophets.” Emphasis fell upon the textual language because, “It is written …” (you know).
- The MT and The “Aleppo Codex” include a section called the “Ketuvim,” which gives the plausible appearance as having been originally in Aramaic, not Hebrew. Thus, they cannot represent “the Hebrew bible.”
It’s just a question, a question you gotta answer: why did the targum material, intended to cover “The Hebrew Bible” in length, include only “Moses and the Prophets,” what the incidental details of NT dominical disputation include as the “Bible of the synagogues.”
No Ketuvim. Just like the Targumim. But not like the MT or LXX.
This is why the targums, orig. included only Genesis – Deuteronomy (Torah), called “targum Onkelos.” And the later targum (say, ca. 200 A.) called “Johnathan” includes only the prophets, or the “Nevi im”, not the “Psalms section” (Ketuvim), which includes chronicles, Esther and Daniel, what I call, “the Aramaic Books”
Punchline? The MT “BECAME” around 900 the medieval-memory “Hebrew Bible of the ancients.” But it never was. It – the Hebrew Bible of the ancient world, was more like the Samaritan Pentateuch + loose-leaf Isaiah and three other prophets, or (later called) “Moses and the Prophets.”
The MT as “the ancient Hebrew Bible” is a medieval scam, one that fooled by the RC Church and the Protestants, all of modern Christendom.
By the way, for those who care about wisdom traditions, this means that the proverbs were originally in Aramaic, and that the interested would do well to follow the Peshitta on this count. Its Proverbs are as close to the originals as we could reasonably get — Aramaic from the year 200 (just before the making of the Greek Codex Vaticanus.