Is Genesis a Jewish original work or was it copied from earlier myths?
George William Foote
"Bible Romances: The Creation Story"
In An Anthology of Atheism and Rationalism
Gordon Stein, Ph.D., ed.
Prometheus Books, 1203 Kensington Avenue, Buffalo, NY 14215, 1980.
Foote notes that Christians must honor the Creation story found in Genesis for the following reasons:
1. Genesis is the first book of the Bible, and if proven false, strongly suggests that the rest of the Bible—or much of it—is false.
2. The fall of man—the original sin—is described as a fact in Genesis and if Genesis is proven false, then there is no fall of man/original sin and the Christian salvation/atonement doctrine and the incarnation/crucifixion/resurrection of J are fictions if not "gigantic mistakes." [p. 113.]
The Genesis Creation Story was not mentioned in Jewish scriptures until found in books written after the Babylonian captivity, when the Jews were exposed to the writings of the Babylonians and the Persians, and this fact is cited as reason why Genesis is not original with the Jews nor the oldest book of the Bible. [p. 113.]
Foote notes that there exist [in the British Museum] tablets which are Assyrian copies of Babylonian originals dating circa 1700 B.C. Upon these tablets are chiseled in stone the Babylonian Creation Story.
Foote notes: "Many centuries before the book of Genesis was written, even before the supposed date of Moses, the Babylonian cosmogony existed with all the chief features of the Hebrew creation story. There is the six-days’ creation in the same order as that of Genesis,, and the temptation and the fall of man. And man himself is called Admi, the Assyrian form of Adam. Here, then, is the origin of the Hebrew cosmogony. The Jews learned it during their captivity in Babylon. After the exile, it was worked into their Scriptures. It was palmed off, like the priestly law, as the work of Moses; but the very historical books of the Jews, containing as they do not single allusion to the one of the other [the Hebrew cosmogony or the 'priestly law' given by Moses] are ample proof of the imposture." [p. 120.]
Foote cites a scholar named Berosius to say that a similar account is found in the Babylonian creation account. [p. 115.]
Foote cites a translation by an M. Oppert of the Chaldean creation account, chisled upon a tablet, thus:
1. Formerly, that which was above was not called heaven.
2. And that which is on earth below had not a name.
3. An infinite abyss was their generator.
4. A chaos, the sea, was the mother who gave birth to this universe. [In Gerald Massey, "Natural Genesis", p. 46., in Gordon Stein, p. 115.]
Foote notes that the "Persian order of Creation [as described] by Ormuzd" is thus:
1. The Heaven;
2. The Water;
3. The Earth;
4. The Trees;
5. The Animals;
6. Man. [p. 124.]
Foote further notes that the "Chaldean order ... , in the main, is marvelously like that of the Jews, and as the latter is clearly derived from the former, its 'inspiration' is a perfect absurdity ..." [p. 124.]
Originally in The Theophilanthropist, as an essay, in 1810, appearing in later editions of The Age of Reason
In A Second Anthology of Atheism and Rationalism
Gordon Stein, Ph.D., ed.
Prometheus Books, 700 East Amherst Street, Buffalo, NY 14215, 1987.
RE: The Book of Genesis
Genesis = Generations; The Book of Genesis = The Book of Generations [p. 143.]
If Genesis is fiction, then there is no 'fall of man' from grace into sin and therefore no need of redemption via NT J sacrifice/salvation/resurrection. [p. 144.]
Paine, and others, consider references to a written work by others as potential proof of the existence of the work, and the potential dating of the work. The reasoning is simple: had a work existed and been considered of importance, then other writers would have referred to it, and parents may have named their children after admirable people named in such works.
Is using references by other writers to a work a reasonable criteria for determining the existence and date of a work?
What sources other than claims within a written work could attest to its existence? It is possible that archaeological references could be found in which a name of a person, god, place, or event was mentioned in carvings in stone. These references would be written works carved in stone rather than written on paper/skins/etc., but someone could reasonably argue that they are written works nevertheless. What would be preferred would be references included in written works on paper—the 'books' of their time, in which the writers revealed their awareness of the existence of a work by their quotations or citations of its content.
Parents often name their children after admirable persons. If the names of admirable persons described and detailed in written works were commonly known either through direct knowledge of the written works in which those names were first found or through storytelling then we should expect to find those names used by parents after the 'publication' of the written work.
Paine has noted that in the Jewish Bible—the original Old Testament [OT]—from Genesis to Malachi, a span of a thousand years, no books allegedly written after Genesis mention the people/things/events described in Genesis, nor do they mention Genesis itself. [p. 144.]
Paine asserts the following reasons for the omission of any mention of Genesis or the people/things/events described in Genesis in the OT from Genesis to Malachi:
1. Genesis is not an ancient book written before the other books of the OT. He says that it was written after the Babylonian captivity of the Jews, which occurred about a thousand years after the alleged time of Moses, and that it was included in a canon of Jewish religious writings during the time of the second temple. Having been written after the Babylonian captivity and therefore after other OT books had been written, the writers of those other OT books could not have had it available for reference.
2. If the Jews admitted that Genesis was written by Moses, they did not consider the claims of persons/things/events therein written to be facts. [p. 144.]
Paine cites St. Augustine as writing in The City of God his opinion that the account of Paradise, Adam and Eve, the serpent, the Tree of Knowledge, and the Fall of Man were fiction or allegory. [p. 145.]
Paine cites Origen, an early Christian church priest and champion thus: "What man of good sense can ever persuade himself that there were a first, a second, and a third day, and that each of these days had a night when there were yet neither sun, moon, nor stars. What man can be stupid enough to believe that God, acting the part of a gardener, had planted a garden in the east, that the tree of life was a real tree, and that its fruit had the virtue of making those who eat of it live forever?" [p. 145.]
Paine cites Maimonides, a Jewish rabbi, of the tenth century, A.D., thus: "we ought not to understand, not to take according to the letter, that which is written in the book of the Creation, nor to have the same ideas of it with common men; otherwise, our ancient sages would not have recommended, with so much care, to conceal the sense of it, and not to raise the allegorical veil which envelopes the truths it contains. The book of Genesis, taken according to the letter, gives the most absurd and the most extravagant ideas of the Divinity. Whosoever shall find out the sense of it, ought to restrain himself from divulging it. It is a maxim which all our sages repeat, and above all with respect to the work of six days. It may happen that some one, with the aid he may borrow from others, may hit upon the meaning of it. In that case he ought to impose silence upon himself; or if he speak of it, he ought to speak obscurely, and in an enigmatical manner, as I do myself, leaving the rest to be found out by those who can understand." [p. 145.]
Paine points out that this citation declares Genesis to be not a factual account and that it is not to be believed to be a factual account, that Genesis is an allegory, that it has within it a concealed secret, and that whosoever should find the secret should not tell it to anyone else. [pp. 145-146.]
Paine states that the 'secret' of Genesis is that it was was copied from the Persian creation account, or cosmogony, found 'in the book of Zoroaster, the Persian lawgiver,' to which the Jews were exposed during the thousand years of the Babylonian captivity until their release by Cyrus, the king of Persia. He says that the Jews had no cosmogony before the captivity and cites as evidence the fact that no cosmogony is mentioned in any of the OT books from Genesis to Malachi. [p. 146.]
Paine cites another Christian writer, Diogenes Laertius, as agreeing with Maimonides that the 'secret' of Genesis is its copying from the Persian cosmogony. [p. 146.]
Paine cites Eben-Ezra, another Jewish writer, circa 1000 A.D., as saying that Moses was not and could not have been the author of Genesis nor of the Pentateuch. [p. 146.]
Paine cites Spinoza (c. 1600's) as saying that Moses is not the author of Genesis and that the Bible did not become the work known as the Bible until 100 years after the Babylonian captivity during the time of the Maccabees. [p. 147.]
Paine notes that in his book, The Age of Reason, he had shown that in Genesis 36 there are nine verses starting with "These are the kings that reigned in Edom, before there reigned any king over the children of Israel, ..." and that these verses could not have been written by Moses because of the fact that such could not have been written until after kings began to reign over Israel 100 years after the alleged time of Moses. [p. 147.]
Paine notes that the OT of the Bible (Deuteronomy) has an account of the death of Moses which logically could not have been written by Moses under the logic/reasoning that no man writes of his own death with any precision. [p. 147.]
Paine notes that the name Moses was not mentioned by any OT books "from the book of Joshua until the second book of Kings, which was not written till after the captivity, for it gives an account of the captivity, a period of about a thousand years." This is claimed to be proof of the Jewish lack of a cosmogony and the fiction of Genesis and the fiction of the authorship of Genesis by Moses. [p. 147.].
Paine summarizes his arguments against the age and authenticity of Genesis thus:
1. Internal evidence—the death of Moses, the listing of Jewish kings—prove that Moses could not have and therefore did not write Genesis.
2. No books from Genesis to Malachi mention Genesis not any of the extraordinary people/things/events described in Genesis.
3. No mention of the name Moses from the book of Joshua to the second book of Kings.
4. The opinions of Jewish commentators that Moses was not the author of Genesis.
5. The opinions of Christian writers, including early Christian writers, and of the Jewish rabbi, Maimonides, that Genesis is fiction.
6. The request for silence by Jewish Rabbis including Maimonides on the fact of the "secret" of Genesis as its being copied from the Zoroastrian/Persian creation account/cosmogony. [pp. 147-148.]
Paine concludes thus:
1. Genesis "is not a book of facts."
2. The people/things/events of Genesis are not mentioned in the Bible until after many of the other books of the Bible [OT] were written.
3. Genesis (A) was written after the Babylonian captivity. (B) modeled after the Persian cosmogony found in the book known as the Zend-Avesta, written by Zoroaster, and (C) given the name of Moses as its author. This is the 'secret' Jews do not want other Jews or other people to know. [pp. 147-148.]
Paine notes the fact that from the time of Abraham to the time when the Jews were defeated and taken captive into Babylon was a period of 1400 years and during that time no mention was made in Jewish writings of the names of the heads of families mentioned in Genesis [Genesis = Generations]. He again cites this fact as evidence—internal evidence—that Genesis was not written prior to other books of the Bible but was, in fact, written after those other books. He argues that parents would have named their children after admirable people such as those claimed in Genesis, and that, therefore, those names should have appeared in books immediately written after Genesis, and, this not being the case, Genesis is not the earliest book of the Bible. [p. 149.]
Voltaire [Francois Marie Arouet]
From The Important Examination of the Holy Scriptures, Richard Carlisle, London, 1819, originally written in 1736.
In Gordon Stein, Ph. D., ed., An Anthology of Atheism and Rationalism
I am of the opinion myself, that the Jews could neither read nor write, till the time of their captivity under the Chaldeans, because their letters were Chaldaic, and afterwards, Syriac. We have never had an alphabet purely Hebraic.
I fancy that Esdras forged all these tales ... after the captivity. He wrote them in Chaldaic characters in the jargon of the country, ...
The Cuteans who inhabited Sumaria wrote the same Pentateuch in Phoenician characters, which they made use of in the country, and this Pentateuch is still extant. [p. 158]